How do I stay safe online?
March 17, 2008 10:28 PM   Subscribe

How do I stay safe online?

I met this girl a while back. I'm a boy. She's older. We got it on. I had to leave.
I found her unusual and funny at the start. I rapidly found her a total flake and lost interest.

Now she's stalking me. She signed up on all the social networks I'm on and emailed my friends on it demanding personal information. She emails me twelve times a day with demands of marriage, accusing me of deserting her, and dubious propositions.

Its now reached a stage where she's seriously interfering with my professional life and this is totally not cool. She tracked down the phone numbers of where I work and called me six times a day until I had to disconnect my phone. She's threatened to knife me if I 'mess with her'.

I've told her clearly and in plain words that I am not interested in her and that she is stalking me and this is not appropriate. I learnt recently that she's stalking other men she met previously. Their advice to me has been to 'stay wary'. The common thread we agree on is that this girl tend to glaze demands for money+sex+companionship with a veneer of a cry for sympathy.

I've changed all my passwords thrice in the last two weeks and scrub my histories and any online traces I leave every two hours. We never used the same computer together, so I'm pretty certain she didn't get anything off a keylogger.

Please help.

Also: suggestions of 'try talking with her' are useless. Conversations with her are monologues and answers to any questions she asks are met with more irrational questions. 'Move away' or 'get another job' are useless too. And *please*: if you have an axe to grind about this question, please take it to MeTa.

I'm constantly looking over my back now. I'm paranoid about my privacy as it is. What do I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
document, document, document - and then, a restraining order.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:42 PM on March 17, 2008

If she threatened to knife you, you can definitely get the police to handle her. All of these creepy and unwanted emails should be plenty of evidence of her stalking.
posted by ignignokt at 10:52 PM on March 17, 2008

Restraining order, cops, the whole nine yards. If you don't know where she is (so that you can have her served with the order) shell out the dough on a P.I. to find out for you. Most of them will serve her themselves once they find her. Don't talk to her anymore. Nothing beyond "Do not contact me anymore, I want nothing to do with you," and hang up.

Odds are, she's not actually gonna knife you, but the more you expose yourself to this woman, the worse it can get. On the more practical side, she's most likely only doing this for attention, and ignoring her (while not a solution in and of itself) might encourage her to seek greener pastures. But you're still gonna get that restraining order, right? Because she threatened to stab you and that makes her nuts and you need to have a way to get rid of her immediately should she show up on your doorstep or something.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:59 PM on March 17, 2008

Don't give out sensitive information on the internet. That's about it.
If you keep good strong password discipline and actual physical access to your machine isn't a problem, then deleting your cache/history/etc. isn't going to do much.
Yeah, and I'll add to the consensus. Threats of physical harm are offences. Cops cops cops.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:06 PM on March 17, 2008

Mod note: Brief clarification from anonymous:

I'm not in the states and neither is she, and we're not in the same country, so American laws do not apply.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:07 PM on March 17, 2008

I was going to Nth police and restraining order, but if things don't work like that in your country I'm not sure. You should definitely avoid all contact with her -- do not give her any response at all. Hang up if she calls and ask your officemates to hang up if she calls and asks for you.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:15 PM on March 17, 2008

You're not in the same country?
Does she know your physical location (house, office)?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:26 PM on March 17, 2008

That's the trouble with the Internet -- you open the curtains, and the whole world can see you wandering around in your underwear.

First, no more contact, period. She calls, hang up without a word. Emails are deleted unopened. So on, so on, so on.

Next, block her on the services, change your email address, all the typical stuff. Since she's in a different country, odds are she's not going to just hop over the fence to visit you, especially if she's also doing this to other guys; who would have the time?

Finally, let your bosses and coworkers and friends know (without the lurid details, of course) that any contact from this person should be rebuffed without a word -- not politely, not rudely, just as if there's nobody on the line. And apologize for the inconvenience.

Oh, and the next time you move and change jobs, likely she will no longer be able to find you (make sure your landlord knows not to give your forwarding address.)

My sympathies.
posted by davejay at 11:36 PM on March 17, 2008

1 - Read The Gift of Fear

2 - Cease all contact. Never respond to her again.
posted by 26.2 at 1:15 AM on March 18, 2008

This girl has some serious issues, and this isn't going to solve everything for you, but you should become familiar with the psychological concept of extinction.

Pay attention to the concept of "extinction burst."

You must ignore her completely. From this point forward, have no contact with her. Don't write or say anything to her, and don't write or say anything about her. If she shows up in a public space, quietly and immediately leave. Not a peep. Not a fuck you. Not a fleeting bit of eye contact.

Any contact you have with her will be positive, even if you punch her in the face. It will let her know that you're still thinking about her.

This is a shitty situation, and I'm sorry that you're in the middle of it.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 1:24 AM on March 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

You have to call her out on this. People like this exist because they are fairly certain that no one will take action against them. It's how bullies work as well. Call her out.

Get your facts straight
Go to the police

Social networking sites should be handled with care
posted by mattoxic at 4:53 AM on March 18, 2008

Now she's stalking me. She signed up on all the social networks I'm on and emailed my friends on it demanding personal information. She emails me twelve times a day with demands of marriage, accusing me of deserting her, and dubious propositions.

If I were you I would start by deleting your social networking profiles. Ask your friends to treat you as if you're dead - no photographs, no conversations or stories involving you online.

Change your email to something extremely generic - I haven't any experience with other webmail, but if you forward everything to a Gmail account, you can then filter out her emails to a specific label marked "evidence", where they can stay without clogging up your inbox. I think you can even mark them as read as they come in, so they will never attract your attention.

Circle the wagons, Google yourself and see where you turn up and if you can't remove the information yourself, contact the websites and ask to be removed. You can come back to the internet at a later date and rebuild your profile when you're safe from this threat.

I hope that you live in a country where there are laws protecting you, if she has threatened your life and you have proof (always keep even the tiniest bits of evidence, you never know when you might need it), there should be something your local authorities can do. I'd also consider re-contacting the other men that have suffered the same, and consider building up a collaborative case for the police.
posted by saturnine at 6:15 AM on March 18, 2008

Mod note: Another update:

further clarifications:

1. Yes she knows the city I am in, but not my street addresses. She's prying around for those too.
2. I'm worried about my online privacy: what can I do right away that'll protect me from her?
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:22 AM on March 18, 2008

It may help to know what countries you and she are in, but I understand if you don't want to give out that information.
posted by oaf at 6:47 AM on March 18, 2008

Nthing deleting your social networking profiles.
posted by drezdn at 6:59 AM on March 18, 2008

Sit down with your boss and detail the situation so that she lessens her impact on your work. Call the police. Stay off the social networks for a while (get below the radar). Ask all of your contacts through whom she could reach you to not give out your personal information (address, new phone #, etc).
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:31 AM on March 18, 2008

This is precisely why all of my social networking profiles at 100% private, as in friends-only, not searchable by name or e-mail and without public pictures. If I want to be friends with someone, I add them. Start by doing this. Also, check out search engines like RapLeaf to make sure your e-mail address isn't bringing you up anywhere you weren't aware of.
posted by sian at 8:57 AM on March 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

2. I'm worried about my online privacy: what can I do right away that'll protect me from her?

I can't help you with much, but I can answer this; not much unless you delete all your old profiles and accounts and start from scratch with new profiles and accounts that have no connection to your old ones. And never make such connections.
posted by Justinian at 12:01 PM on March 18, 2008

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