Cyber Stalking Investigations & Consulting
The term of Cyberstalking is applies to the use of the Internet, e-mail, IM (instant messaging) or other electronic communication devices to stalk another person.
Stalking generally involves unusual behavior such as harassing or threatening an individual. Acts of cyberstalking can be simple things such as using Social Media to follow person online or in person at their home, school, and place of business or in public places. This is often followed by making harassing phone calls, electronic messages, posts, I.M.
Most stalking laws require that the perpetrator make a credible threat of violence against the victim. While others include threats against the victim's immediate family; and others require only that the alleged stalker's course of conduct constitute an implied threat.
Nature and Extent of Cyberstalking
Using Technology for Stalking
Many stalkers, whether online or offline, are motivated by a desire to exert control over their victims. That victim may be an adult, a child, or a business entity. We make it easy to be stalked. With every keystroke on the computer, website you visit, post you write, email you send, or electronic communication you are a party to, including hitting the “Like” button, all provide clues as to who you are, where you are, and how you operate. You also give details of what tools you are using in the way of browsers, phones, computers, desktops, operating systems, mac address, SSID, and IP address (es). Additionally most of these websites you visit sell your IP address to generate business revenue from their alliance partners. Therefore, each time you visit a website, whether you log in or not, your IP address is now linked to an average of 4 to 10 other websites. So, you can imagine the exponentially effect this has.
As with offline stalking, the available evidence (which is largely anecdotal) suggests that the majority of cyber stalkers are men and the majority of their victims are women, although there have been reported cases of women cyberstalking men and of same-sex cyberstalking. In many cases, the cyberstalker and the victim had a prior relationship, and the cyberstalking begins when the victim attempts to break off the relationship. Given the enormous amount of personal information available through todays Internet, a cyberstalker can easily locate private information about a potential victim with a minimal effort utilizing a computer.
Cyberstalking does not involve physical contact but may be just as threatening as physical stalking, which may escalate to physical violence. As the Internet becomes an ever more integral part of our personal and professional lives, stalkers can take advantage of the ease of communications as well as increased access to personal information through websites such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Myspace, and many others. The risk and/or danger may come from a potential stalker who may be unwilling or unable to confront a victim in person or on the telephone, he or she may have little hesitation sending harassing or threatening electronic communications to a victim. Most importantly, as with physical stalking, online harassment and threats may be a prelude to more serious behavior, which may include physical violence.
The Preliminary Investigation:
Once an investigator or law enforcement officer has determined that grounds exist for a cyberstalking case; that entity should encourage a preliminary criminal investigation. It is important to obtain specific information from the complainant. Obtaining all detailed information regarding the harassing behavior, including any personal contacts, such as telephone calls or being followed will be documented.
Step 1: Ask the complainant if he or she knows who is sending the harassing messages. If so, obtain an investigative interview statement regarding the specific information about the suspect: name, age, address, telephone number, vehicle information, and relationship to victim. Obtain a copy of the messages for the case file showing the e-mail address, Web site URL, nickname, screen name, and the content(s) of the message(s).
Step 2: Ask the complainant open probe questions such as, if he or she knows why he or she is being harassed. If so, record the complainant’s explanation in as much detail as possible in the narrative portion of the report. Knowledge of the reason can help lead to the identification of an unknown harasser.
Step 3: Establish when and how the harassment began. Has the contact been solely via the Internet (e-mail messages, chat rooms, mailing lists, instant messages, Web site) or has there been other harassment such as telephone calls, cell phone calls or texts, letters sent via USPS, or contacts at the complainant’s workplace or other locations, and whether any of the complainant’s relatives or friends has also been subjected to the harassment.
Step 4: Determine whether the complainant has been threatened with physical harm or physically attacked. Often, the electronic messages will threaten violence, rape, and even death. The investigation should document the details of how these threats were communicated. If the complainant has been attacked, it is apparent the threat has escalated beyond electronic threats. Details of the attack and results of the subsequent investigation of that incident become part of the case file.
Step 5: The investigation should then proceed to secure any physical evidence available and start the chain of custody to protect the evidence. The material should be saved in both paper printouts and electronic files on an electronic medium such as a disk or CD/DVD-ROM. Ask the complainant if he or she has any material evidence. Items to request include:
• E-mail messages
• Chat room messages
• Instant messages
• Web page images
• Social networking messages/wall posts
• Mailing list messages
• Message board messages
• Telephone/cell phone conversations or answering machine messages
• Text messages
• Postal letters