Skirting a Stalker – Do’s & Don’ts

Stalking is used with some differing definitions in psychiatry and psychology, as well as legal terminology in the act of a criminal offense.  Stalking is unwanted or obsessive attention sometimes leading to threatening or dangerous situations as well as discomfort for the victim.  Unlike other crimes which usually involve one act, stalking is a series of actions that occur over a period usually consisting of an accumulation of actions which in themselves can be legal, such as phone calls, sending gifts, or sending emails, showing up in public places at the same time as the victim and the like. 

Real-Estate-Horror-Story-That-You-Won’t-Believe-is-True-–-Local-Records-Office-Paper151.jpg

While most people view stalking as a problem only celebrities encounter, it is actually more common among civilians who have a jilted ex-partner, an envious co-worker or ex-friend, and sometimes even strangers who seem to grow an unhealthy interest in their victim (perhaps a customer at the victim’s place of employment, the ex of someone the victim is newly connected with or even someone they discovered on social media and became obsessed with).

In modern times, stalking has become more prominent due to social media and political conceptions. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, group stalking is becoming more commonplace.  Group stalking is when 3 or more people driven by the same feelings unite with a goal of harassing their victim.  Cyber stalking has turned into a household word and, due it the simplicity of cyber stalking, it has also grown to be the most common type of stalking today.

Here are some Do’s & Don’ts if you feel you are being stalked:

  • Don’t call, write to, speak or respond to your stalker in person if you can avoid it. Stalkers often feel as though they are in a relationship with their victims and any contact the victim makes with them is perceived as validation of their relationship (which is nonexistent). Remember, even being overtly rude or yelling at your stalker can be misconstrued as communication of affection or interest.
  • Do hide your personal information. If a stalker does not have personal information about you they can retrieve it by searching on the internet, listening to your conversations, or picking up items you discard in public places.  If possible, provide a secondary phone contact number whenever able and use a P.O. Box for your address.
  • Don’t rely on arming yourself as a deterrent.  Without proper training, you or a loved one could get hurt.  Also, should you physically harm or kill a stalker, you could be held criminally liable resulting in life altering penalties.  It is always best to know self defense techniques, but when using weapons (such as guns) it becomes a slippery slope where, as a victim, you could become a offender.
  • Do inform others about your issue. Although many stalking victims are reluctant to tell others what they are going through, it is important that those around you know what is happening. This includes family, friends, co-habitants, work colleagues and even neighbors. Sharing helps reduce the possibility of others unintentionally providing info to the stalker that could provide access to you, makes them aware of any significant things they observe and helps you with evidence and witnesses should you have to bring your stalker to court.
  • Don’t ignore red flags or your instincts.  Often times we think a stalker will give up and go away or that we will not be taken seriously if we tell others we feel suspicious about someone.  Depending on the level of threat a stalking incident is, do not let even the mildest incidents extend beyond 3 occurrences without noting details, saving any evidence and beginning to inform others you may have a problem on your hands.
  • Do collect all forms of evidence. Try to journal all incidents, organize copies of any correspondence and save any recorded messages, and photograph any evidence or incidents whenever you are able to do so safely.  If an item is delivered to you, contact the delivery service to determine who placed the order, when, and how it was paid for (cash or credit card) and try to obtain a description of the person who placed the order. Handle all items received from your stalker carefully to avoid smudging fingerprints (for instance; hold items by the corners using tweezers. Keep the item in separate plastic bag.
  • Don’t leave a hidden key outside or avoid changing locks if your stalker once had access to your residence.  This should be obvious, but often times we forget these safety measures in the daily shuffle and more especially when we are already stressed.  It’s always wise to change your locks after a roommate (of any nature) moves out.
  • Do make your home as safe and secure as possible. A monitored security alarm system is always best, but not always affordable.  If you can’t afford to purchase such a system, there are also alarms that do not report to a monitoring company but still make startling alert sounds that can deter offenders.  Other smart ways to secure your home are listed in our Tips for Protecting your Home as well as our Burglar Prevention Blog.

14633836.jpg

Remember your local police  are there to protect and serve YOU! You can drop by a police station and discuss your issues or seek advice, but in busier cities it is not always as easy to do.  If you feel you need advice or assistance from the police or even just want to put a statement on record, consider calling to schedule an appointment to meet with an officer to do so.  If you’ve reached a place where a restraining order is your best option, you can approach it the same way as you would seek advice from the police but it is important that you remember the following; often times restraining orders infuriate stalkers and conditions worsen before they improve, a restraining order does not replace any of the aforementioned safety measures and any failure to strictly enforce a restraining order may send a message to the stalker that the victim is not being protected.  If you decide police intervention is best, be sure to provide them any evidence you have collected.

When stalking behaviors persist for more than a few days, there is a serious probability that they will continue indefinitely and it is a good idea to learn how to manage the situation. To learn more about the risks of being stalked, check out these websites and articles: stalkingriskprofile.com, How to Deal with a Stalker and Safety Tips for Stalking Victims.

💻 📬 📦 Online Shopping – Stay Safe & Keep It Simple 💻 📬 📦

 

Now that we are in the midst of the Holiday Shopping Season, we are trying to find ways to complete our gift lists while avoiding the hassle of crowded shopping centers, parking lots and all of the other external stressors that subtract from the joys of gift giving. Many people have chosen to bypass these hassles all together by doing all of their shopping online.

Golden think safety key on keyboard
Golden think safety key on keyboard

While shopping online is convenient in so many ways, it also has it’s own set of precautions that we need to consider. Anything device connected to the Internet, including smartphones and tablets need to be protected – especially during heavy use periods, like the holidays. Scammers and cyber criminals can easily target shoppers.

pcsteal.jpg

Being a safe and secure shopper starts with careful safeguards. Think about the consequences of your actions online before you act and enjoy the conveniences of technology with peace of mind while you shop online. 

Here are some great tips to help you find the ease of internet shopping to be a safe experience as well:

  • Use Familiar Websites rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off. We all know Amazon.com and that it carries everything under the sun; likewise, just about every major retail outlet has an online store, from Target to Best Buy.
  • Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com, for example)—those are the oldest tricks in the book. Yes, the sales on these sites might look enticing, but that’s how they trick you into giving up your info!
  • Look for the Lock and NEVER buy anything that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You’ll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar. It depends on your browser.
  • Conduct research when using a new website for purchases, read reviews and see if other consumers have had a positive or negative experience with the site.
  • Personal information is like money so value it and protect it! When making a purchase online, be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure you think it is necessary for the vendor to request that information. Remember, you only need to fill out required fields at checkout.
  • Be on alert for emails that might get us to act quickly and click through links and open attachments. Be wary of emails about problems with your credit cards or an account or the status of online order. Criminals know we are price sensitive when shopping online. Exercise caution when seeing and ad offer where the discount is way below normal.
  • Don’t Tell All! No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up the least amount of information.
  • Use safe payment options! Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered. 
  • Read return and other polices so you know what to expect if the purchase doesn’t go as planned.
  • Limit the type of business you conduct over open public Wi-Fi connections, including logging on to key accounts, such as email and banking. Adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your phone.
  • Keep a clean machine by keeping all web-connected devices ‒ including PCs, smartphones and tablets ‒ free from malware and infections by running only the most current versions of software and apps.
  • Reinforce your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media.
  • Make your password tough! A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember (for example, “ILove2MyNewCar!”)
  • Having separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cyber-criminals. At a minimum, separate your work and personal accounts and make sure that your critical accounts have the strongest passwords. 
  • Check your statements regularly and don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online frequently during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal. (After all, there’s more than one way to get to your money.) If you do see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.

packagesxmas.jpgNow that you know the safest ways to shop, you’re only concern should be what is the best gifts to give your friends and family! If your loved ones are as concerned about internet security as you are, we recommend an online security tool.

Click here to see the top 10 Antivirus Software Programs of 2016!

Click here to see the top Identity Theft Protection Services of 2016!

Have a safe and wonderful Holiday Season!

croppedfocusedimage128064050-50-presents-banner

 

 

Creepy Clown Trend is Not a Laughing Matter🤡

Though the very term “Creepy Clowns” may make you want to chuckle and seems harmless enough, however, in recent months it has become an international threat.

The trend of mysterious people dressed as clowns (usually more horror clowns than the lovable Ronald McDonald type) began in the summer months along the east coast and has since spread throughout the nation (now even being reported in parts of Germany).

map

The motive of this activity remains unclear, but many people seem to be copycatting the behavior.

While most clown activity has been proven harmless, in some cases these clowns are attempting to abduct children, incite violence and rob businesses.

“The spreading of unusual behaviors is more common at times when there is a lot of tension, conflict and anxiety,” said Craig D. Parks, social psychologist and assistant vice provost at WSU. Another could be what Parks called “social contagion”. Although traditionally social contagion is more likely to spread among people who have frequent physical contact with others, the internet has altered that aspect of the phenomenon. “Social contagion is when somebody does something unusual and it affects other people,” said Parks. “People see it and say, ‘Wow! I’m going to do that too.’”

Clown2.png

The trend has now found its way to parts of Arizona and California, the latest US states (to date) to experience the creepy phenomena.

On October 23rd, three people dressed as creepy clowns were spotted by security guards outside a shopping mall in San Francisco. One of the three culprits was brandishing a gun. The men, who were huddled in one of the mall’s emergency stairwells prepping their costumes, fled the scene when they realized security was observing them. After a security guard contacted the police, the police acknowledged they suspected the men were planning a robbery attempt that was fortunately averted by mall security.

While the craze has been rife with false alarms, hoaxes and pranksters there have been a few legitimate incidents. If you encounter a creepy clown, do not attempt to take action against the clown yourself! Please take note, this is especially sensitive territory during the Halloween season and also some innocent bystanders dress in clown costumes as part of their entertainment careers. One major identifier is that creepy clowns are just that…creepy! Their costumes are intentionally dirty and damaged and their appearance likens horror instead of humor. However, some sightings have been more basic. When you see a clown in a busy area, try to locate a security guard or police officer nearby. If you are in a more secluded area, call 9-1-1 immediately and move quickly in the opposite direction of the clown. Be especially careful to teach children that they are not to engage with clowns or any strangers for their safety.