Technology enabling cyberstalkers to torment victims


Technology is not your friend if you’re on the other end of an obsessed stalker.

“If someone is trying to hurt you, they have more tools in their toolbox now,” says Kristin who didn’t want her last name used but spoke openly with CrimeTracker 10 openly about her cyberstalking nightmare.

Kristin suffered from more than a year of torment at the hands of an ex-boyfriend.

“When you specifically tell someone – Do not interact with me – when you block on Facebook or social media or block their phone number and they start going around it and creating new Facebook pages or new Snapchats and emails and phone numbers, that’s when it gets to the point where you are at their mercy,” she said. “They keep interacting with you and all you want is for them to stop.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.5 million people are cyberstalked every year. That’s up 45 percent from just two years ago.

“It’s almost an infinite number of ways with different types of apps on your phone or different sorts of social media platforms that creates that opportunity for interaction,” says Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein.

He says between 85-90 percent of stalking reports filed in the capital city have some form of cyber element.

Last year, more than half involved stalking by phone or text and 35 percent of victims reported cyberstalked used email or social media to harass them.

“There’s certainly been more instances of stalkers using spoofed numbers, fake email addresses, fake Facebook pages,” Klein said.

Kristin says she experienced it all. In 47 days, she documented more than 1,352 phone calls, 75 text messages, and 107 different numbers that were spoofed.

And she quickly learned the technology on her smartphone gave her ex an effortless way to keep his “eyes” on her.

“The police officers thought I had spyware on my phone, where my ex had access to my cell phone and was able to download an app and integrate inside other apps already on my phone,” she said. “As long as I was on my phone and that specific app that the spyware was integrated into, it could access my location. Then they could use their own cell phone to figure out where I was.”

Kristin says she started collecting evidence – screen grabs, photos, emails – of everything her cyberstalker used to make her life a living hell. She kept it all in a binder that grew to 3 inches thick. It was her proof of life.

“If I was killed, at least I made sure I was able to stand up for myself as much as possible through this book,” she explains. “I remember being so scared that I didn’t event want to get out of bed, so I had a highlighter and found a back of a receipt and I wrote my will on the back with a highlighter because I was convinced I’d be dead before he was ever caught.”

The federal government, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories have all enacted criminal laws to address stalking. But Kristin wants more. She says there needs to be better legislation to protect victims like her.

“I felt like my abuser was innocent until guilty and I was lying until proven truthful,” she said.

The City Attorney’s office has a specific division dedicated to domestic violence and stalking. Prosecutors work with investigators from the Columbus Division of Police.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is for individuals to trust their gut and when they feel uncomfortable, call our office. Don’t be embarrassed. It’s ok. We’re here to help,” Klein said.