The evils of the streets have made inroads into the virtual world in India: the tomfoolery of stalking perpetuated on roads has now become rampant in cyberspace as well. In a recent crime statistics report from Karnataka, it was reported that over 60% of complaints lodged with the Women’s Commission pertained to online harassment or cyberstalking.
Cybercrimes are rampant and growing, and cyber-stalking, also sometimes referred to as online stalking or internet stalking, is one of the more obvious flipsides of the digital penetration of technology. It is just as grave as any other cybercrime, but it is scarier because of how close-to-home it hits.
This harassment includes, is not limited to and may only partially entail, monitoring the victim’s online activities, threats, identity theft, data theft, forging their data, etc.
It is often a manifestation of obsessive behaviour on the part of the perpetrator who compulsively and illegally keeps a track of someone’s each and every activity over the internet.
There are multiple methods to stalk a person over the internet like SMS, phone calls, emails, etc., the most common being social media platforms. Social media websites and mobile apps have access to a user’s personal information like pictures, address, contacts and whereabouts.
By the very design of things, social media platforms give out real-time information. Such information becomes susceptible to be misused by stalkers who can use it threaten, blackmail or come in direct contact with the victim.
If you are being cyber-stalked
You should treat the first vague hints seriously, and make it clear to the person in the first instance that you do not want any further contact with him or her: try keeping multiple records of such communication, either by way of screenshots, marking multiple people in the chats/emails, or by downloading the chat where possible. But if the stalker persists, do not provoke them by responding or getting riles up. Instead, block them right away.
Do not delete the emails, text messages, or any content shared. It may help to print them as well, to keep a reliable record of the harrassment. Do not alter them as these will serve as your evidence, should you seek redressal. It is also important to save the original emails as they are, online, because they may contain important routing information, which will again be helpful in law enforcement and redressal mechanism.
Be in a habit of frequently changing your passwords and PIN numbers. Your stalker might try to impersonate you in the digital space to wreak havoc in your life.
Have a support system or network of family and friends, so that someone knows, at all times, where you are and what your day’s schedule looks like. If it disturbs your mental health, seek counselling. And most importantly, knock on the doors of the law-enforcement agencies, in our case, the police.
There’s legal recourse
Often people don’t report cyber crimes immediately due to lack of awareness or social stigma. You shouldn’t wait for things to get worse and proceed to lodge an immediate complaint.
Under the Information and Technology Act, 2000, stalkers and cybercriminals can be booked under several sections for breaching of privacy. For example, Section 66A defines punishment for cyberstalking as imprisonment up to three years or fine. Sending offensive messages through communication service, causing annoyance etc., through electronic communication or sending an email to mislead or deceive the recipient about the origin of such messages (commonly known as IP or email spoofing) are all covered under this section.
Protection Against Cyber Stalking
While it is assuring to know that there are possible redressal mechanisms within the legal framework, it comes at a cost too. Insurers like Bajaj Allianz General Insurance offer personal cyber insurance covers for the prosecution costs to help deal with the aftermath of cyberstalking. You can easily buy them online at Finserv MARKETS.
Additionally, a cyber insurance policy like the one from Bajaj Allianz General Insurance will include identity theft, extortion, email spoofing. The policy looks at your past experience of cyberstalking holistically, which is why it acknowledges how such an experience can take a mental toll on the victim. A comprehensive plan will cover fees for consultation with psychiatrists, psychologists or counsellors to help you deal with anxiety or medical conditions that are a direct result of cybercrime.
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