Tina's Online Stalker

Not all romance stories have a happy ending. Check out Tina's story of her online stalker...

Part 1

It sounds strange, doesn’t it? Anything online, that’s easy enough to stop - turn off the computer. Well, it’s not so easy. Here’s my story of what it’s like being cyberstalked.

I am a freelance writer and I need to do research. The internet is a highway of information, so I browsed and browsed often on every subject related to writing: user groups, web loops, classes, seminars and societies. I met a few people and started dialogues, easing in to the publishing world carefully.

One person I met had a wealth of information. I learned plot points, character arcs and story structure from someone who knew writing and knew it well. Writing wasn’t the only thing, as I would find out later, that he knew well.

While working on several projects, he and I became friends and the discussions expanded to include family, kids and life in general. I knew aspects of his life and he learned several of mine, as any good friend knows about another.

Over a year had gone by, and the relationship turned romantic. This is tough to do via long distance, but we did it anyway. Along the route, a comment would be made or an action done that would raise a little red flag in my head, but I plowed ahead regardless.

Several more months went by, and the phone bills went up. Then a few more months with little or no physical contact went by and tempers were raised. Ultimatums were issued and not met. The relationship fizzled and communication ceased.

A couple months went by and I had moved on. Little did I know things would turn ugly with the presence of a new boyfriend. The phone calls started again, on the home and cell lines. I ignored them until the email and text messages started.

I didn’t want to return the calls, but one night, while the new boyfriend was over, I got a text on my cell phone that said to check my email. The feeling of dread spread over me. I broke out in a cold sweat and ran to the computer.

Sure enough, upon checking, there was an email with pictures he had taken of us together – and not just platonically. Explicit...and ones I did not know about with a camera phone. I shut my eyes to push away the images. I didn’t dare look who else had been sent the pictures, because I knew they weren’t for my eyes only. A glance to the TO line confirmed my fears – they went to my boss and other friends. How did he get their emails?

After some research, I found that several laws protect people from having their image distributed without consent. He wasn’t deterred and said if I wouldn’t talk with him, they were going to the ex-husband. I also knew that in the two years plus I had talked with him, I had forwarded jokes and such to my siblings, cousins, friends and other relatives he would have had access to from my own mailings. How could I have been so stupid? I read the warning articles about protecting your privacy online and all the tips and tricks to secure yourself. But I was safe...it would never happen to me.

Well, it did.

The pictures became a tool of blackmail. The official definition of blackmail and extortion says money needs to be demanded, but I beg to differ. He held the pictures, and the fact that he had more over my head as a threat. He also knows I avoid confrontations like the plague.

The weekend came and I pushed my troubles away. Saturday morning I went to read my mail and could not get in. Hmmm. I tried again and got a message my password was invalid. Try again...no luck.

Yup. He knew the answers to my “security” questions, got into my email, and reset the password. I felt completely violated. He had access to years’ worth of stored business contacts, old friends and family members email addresses. Emails with passwords to all of the memberships I had, accounts I carried and receipts of orders I had placed. Come the afternoon, I found out he also had the name and cell phone number of the new boyfriend.

Breaking in to someone’s email is breaking the law – if you can prove it. There are programs that can hide and scramble the home computers IP address. Meaning, unless I was a cop with a subpoena, Yahoo would not release who had been in my account. Even if they did, I knew it would be a bogus location he had created because of these scrambling programs.

A mutual friend (or at least I thought) stepped in and offered a truce. Talk to him for ten minutes, let him say what he has to say, and it’s done. He offered to write an apology to the people he had sent the pictures to and we hung up. In the process of this “negotiation”, I found out he wasn’t what he had said. There were very few writer contacts, the work experience didn’t exist and his lifestyle wasn’t what I was led to believe. Everything from two years of conversations was a lie. He was a consummate liar...

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