How to know if you’re being stalked or are just paranoid

If you keep seeing the same company, or start thinking someone is watching you, you are not alone. Here’s a guide to spotting an online stalker

How to know if you’re being stalked or are just paranoid

Fear of stalking as a form of mental illness is rife online. According to research by law firm Burke Clark, 45% of respondents say they “worry a lot” about it. In the UK, stalking is recognised as a form of mental illness and is an offence in many countries. Here is a guide to what to look out for.

Ask yourself: What has made me fear stalking?

In the way of most modern online stalkers, a threat is followed by a comment or a strange request. If you keep getting messages of wanting to see you, or certain sites that you are visiting keep receiving notices from the webmaster asking you to delete certain posts, you are most likely not alone.

If you keep finding yourself having to abandon online activities that you like because someone is “following” you, you may also be experiencing stalking. It’s also common for someone who has been subject to stalking to be jealous of other people’s online activity.

If you see something you do not like on a site, Facebook or Twitter and you do not know who it is, report it. Even if you do know who it is, you do not need to identify the user or the profile. Simply report the specific issue.

Do not engage or go near the websites the account or profile is linked to

The longer it goes on undetected, the more frightening and confrontational it becomes. The red alert means we are worried about them, but they are hiding behind a screen. In the same way, do not engage in conversations with them and do not go near the websites.

Be wary of moving to another location

It’s perfectly normal to switch offices and move house often. However, persistent stalkers may try to make their presence felt by harassing you in your new home. This can include knocking on the door or following you to get your number.

Stay calm and responsible

If the person is refusing to stop, or seems to have more power and control over you, do not engage further. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you are put at risk. To avoid this, it is more effective to direct your anger and frustration towards the issue, rather than upraising your hopes and fears.

Think about the safety of your children and yourself

Keep a file on who you are communicating with online. It is never a good idea to keep your personal diaries or diaries of sexual fantasies in your personal email account, but you might choose to have private communication sites as a default. Have a backup of everything: your address, phone number, password and private details of your contacts.

Don’t believe everything you hear

Stalking is not a simple thing: you cannot know who is following you and what they are going to do. To help, you need to be able to keep up with who and what is out there. It can feel difficult and risky, but you should take a break if the situation becomes too difficult.

Once you know what to look out for, you should be able to use your head rather than reaching for your smartphone.

• This article was amended on 4 July to remove references to cyberstalking as a condition of proposed access to a property. Cyberstalking is only an aspect of stalking.

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