AUGUSTA, Maine - January is National Stalking Awareness Month and, according to the National Center to End Violent Crime, more than three million people over age 18 are stalked each year in the United States. One in four victims reports being cyber-stalked.
Julia Colpitts, executive director of the Maine Coalition To End Domestic Violence, says stalkers use technology in a variety of ways to harass their victims. She points out that it is now possible to install malware or spyware on a computer, put a GPS device on a vehicle, or enable GPS tracking on a cell phone – all without the victim knowing.
"If you find that people know more about you think they should, ask for some expert advice in taking a look at your web options, your phone, your computer – to be able to see if, in fact, something has been placed on them."
Colpitts says malware and spyware on computers is becoming easier to install, which means just about anything can be tracked: from the types of documents you are creating, to emails, passwords and a victim's personal information.
"It can also mean in some of them, particularly for people who have cameras in their computers, that those cameras can be directed and controlled off-site."
If you think you are being stalked, Colpitts warns not to confront the suspected stalker directly; rather, seek help from law enforcement or one of the victim service agencies around the state that can assist you in devising a safety plan. You can start by calling Maine's statewide hotline number, 1-866-834-HELP.