Anyone who has had a genuine encounter with a stalker will testify to the fact that it is extremely difficult to shake off determined and technically savvy cyberstalkers. Hence, it is very good idea to be as safe from potential harm as possible. Here are some general guidelines on avoiding stalkers.
1. Never reply to provocative e-mails, respond to flaming or get provoked online.
It is very tempting to retaliate against anyone who offends you in anyway but, more often than not, retaliation is exactly what is expected of you. The provoker will then have an excuse to go after you. Instead, harassment mails or offensive messages on chat forums should be reported to one’s Internet Service Provider or your local authorities. This is the street-smart thing to do and, in the long run, you will help to create a friendly and conducive environment for open discussion.
2. Create a gender neutral e-mail address.
This should be specially followed by females as they comprise the majority of stalker victims. Often, people think that they will become popular among their peers if they have eye-catching or provocative names. Having such usernames in open forums where potential stalkers could be lurking tends to draw their attention and narrow down their range of targets. Therefore, provocative e-mail addresses such as email@example.com should be especially avoided as they often attract a lot of such unwanted attention. An example of a gender neutral name could be firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
3. Avoid posting your personal information on the web.
When using chat rooms or other similar forums, one’s personal information is often displayed on one’s profile. It is imperative that no personal information is put up for display as this makes it more difficult for others to gather information about the user. This also allows for greater control over the amount and type of information that one wants to provide. One should also be aware of any personal information which may be attached to an email being sent.
4. Do not agree to meet your 'online friend' in a secluded place.
Many cyberstalkers physically attack or rape their victims when they meet them in the physical world. You should understand that people might not actually be what they seem to be on the Internet. The anonymity of the Net is as often taken for granted as it is exploited by malicious characters. Your online contact may have a very genuine reason to meet you in a secluded area but you should have the presence of mind to refuse such a request unless you have met the person face to face before and know what he or she is actually like. Do not assume that just because you have had an online relationship for months with one person, he or she can be trusted. A lot of stalkers are very patient and careful. Therefore, avoid meeting your 'Internet friend' in the physical world. If you really have to do it, then request do so in a public place and if this is not possible, you should be alerted to the fact that something is not right.
In conclusion, the onus is on you, the user, to stay safe.
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