If you’ve ever been stalked, you know how terrifying and enraging it can be. In Hawaii, the most common stalking scenario is one where women are stalked by abusive ex-boyfriends or husbands, who know her routines, friends and passwords. To start, women in danger make several wrong assumptions:
- Email is private
- Family & friends aren’t targets
- Credit is safe
- The authorities won’t help
Stalkers have the ability to penetrate all of areas of a person’s life and no one or thing is off limits. It’s about power and revenge.
It’s safe to assume that everything you send and receive now by email is read by your stalker (thus, faxing and secured snail mail are still safe). A simple trace program can be attached to any email address–without gaining access to your computer–that allows the stalker to read everything you send and receive from that account. This simple program basically creates a “cc” on every message without your knowledge. Email is in fact public so this is not necessarily illegal although the ethics are very arguable.
If you think you are being stalked, protect your email, change your cell phone number again and PDA root email address as soon as possible. Get a new webmail account to forward your PDA email to, but keep your old one for cover. Don’t communicate with your new account addresses, personal information or whereabouts from your existing email accounts i.e., don’t forward your friends your new address or phone number from any of your existing accounts as this will defeat the purpose. Instead, leave phone messages or send faxes with your new contact info.
Once you’ve created a new layer of email addresses that are unknown to the stalker, continue “shell” communications with the old address, but use the opportunity to throw the stalker off your trail by giving false information and using reverse psychology. Also be sure to activate your wireless network security at home and install security software on every computer that you use (I like McAfee’s Internet Security Suite at www.mcafee.com).
It’s also safe to assume that the stalker knows how to contact your family and friends. Missing phone bills means that he/she now has a list of who’s in your life–couple that with email addresses, and the picture is complete. Mentally prepare yourself for the stalker to harass your family & friends. This is the time to ask for help.
Let people know you have a stalker and get their support. Any contact he/she makes to you or anyone else should be recorded and kept as evidence. It may also be helpful to seek support from a therapist because dealing with the stress can quickly become overwhelming for me, and there are limits to the support of family & friends no matter how well meaning. Contact the authorities, make a police report and keep written records of any interactions with your stalker and of suspicious activity.
Guessing the stalker’s intentions is very difficult, but protecting yourself against identity theft and financial fraud takes only a few hours and is well worth the effort. Some women have their identities stolen and used fraudulently. It takes years to get that stuff off your credit report, but a little prevention can go a long way.
- Start by purchasing a cross-cut shredder and a locking safe. Shred everything containing an account number that you’re done with and lock up everything else.
- Rent a post office box and stop receiving your mail at home. A POB is the truly secure way to receive mail.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit reports. A temporary fraud alert protects you for 90 days. If this continues, you can extend it for up to 7 years (it can be stopped any time if you submit a written request). The credit bureau will require that any new account activity must be verified by you over the phone using the number you provide. This is inconvenient for you if you need new credit, but it also slows down would-be thieves. You can do this for free by calling any of the credit bureaus (one will notify the other two):
- Change your passwords on all of your accounts with numbers, especially bank and investment accounts. Choose a new password that is very random, would not be guessed by a close friend and contains letters and numbers. Continue to change your password to something *not personal* that cannot be known by the stalker.
- You can also opt for online billing for most of your utility and credit cards. Give them a new email address that you won’t ever use for personal communications i.e., create a “billing only” email account.
- Lastly, get a free copy of all of your credit reports now and monitor activity (www.annualcreditreport.com). If anything fraudulent pops up, dispute and report it immediately.
Eventually, the trail dries up, and stalkers lose interest. They often get a thrill from seeing their victim squirm, and when they can’t do that anymore, the fun is over. Stalking is about power and revenge.
Protect yourself more aggressively from the start rather than hope it will stop (denial). Hopefully if you implement these steps, your trail will turn ice cold, and the stalker will slip off!