Nowhere to Hide: Cyberstalking Surges

New technology is making it easier than ever for someone to watch you 24/7.

Photo by Getty Images/Marco_Piunti.

In this ever more cyber-savvy world, a stalker can attach a device smaller than a dime to your car to find out where you go. They can peer at you when you think you’re alone by hiding a tiny “nanny cam” in your home or commandeering your webcam from a distance. They can hack into your iCloud account to track your email, “clone” your phone to get your calls when you do, and use malware to know what you type as you type.

“Cameras have been found in pens, stuffed animals, smoke detectors, ceiling lights, behind light switches and elsewhere,” says Michele Minor Wolf, executive director of Victims’ Intervention Program (VIP) of Wayne and Pike Counties, in Pennsylvania.

VIP assists victims of stalking as well as domestic violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking, and other crimes.  On a recent day, Wolf hovered by tables with piles of VIP brochures, set up by a sidewalk in the small town of Milford, PA, to introduce their services.

“There’s a huge increase in cyberstalking by intimate partners,” she said. “It gets dangerous after the victim leaves the relationship because the stalker gets angry about the loss of control. So they use technology to track email, phone calls, texts, and GPS locations. They can access your phone and computer without getting their hands on the devices. They can track you even if the location function on your device is turned off.”

A woman who attended the sidewalk introduction asked to remain unnamed, having been stalked by her husband for over 20 years, probably beginning before they married, she said. She met him in college, but although they did not date then, he probably tracked her. After she graduated and had a job somewhere else, he appeared at her workplace and asked her out, which was flattering at the time, she said. When they married and had children, his behavior was only intermittently problematic, but his need for control escalated. He limited where she could go and what she could wear.

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