Now that you know how to track someone down, you also know how others can track you down, and you can take steps to protect your private information. If you don't want to find your name and home address splashed across the World Wide Web, try one or more of the following techniques:

  • Get an unlisted phone number. This prevents most of the people-tracking websites from finding your name, address, and phone number (it won't be in the telephone directory).

  • Use a fake or misspelled name. The phone company doesn't care what name you use, just as long as you pay your phone bill on time. A fake name will throw off the majority of these people-tracking websites, even if someone knows your actual phone number.

  • Avoid listing your street address. This way, even if someone finds your phone number in a phone directory, they still won't be able to find out where you live.

  • Contact the people-finding website directly and request that your name be removed from their listing. Unfortunately, with so many people-finders popping up all the time, this might mean having to contact a dozen different websites-and then there's still no guarantee that a new people-finding website won't turn up with your information anyway.

If you don't want to make your email address available to anyone who might be searching for it, try one or more of the following techniques:

  • Use an anonymous remailer before posting any messages to a Usenet newsgroup. This method also helps keep your email address off mailing lists used by spammers.

  • Change email addresses frequently. If receiving email isn't that important to you, use multiple email accounts, and shut them down periodically. If you include a signature file with every email you send out, make sure you don't give out any personal or important information in that signature file, such as a home phone number or a website address that could list even more information about you.

  • If you really need to hide, avoid leaving a paper trail of any sort. Don't sign up for telephone service (or, if you must, use a fake name); avoid using credit cards; pay cash for everything; and avoid magazine subscriptions that use your real name. Eliminating your paper trail can be a lot of work, but it might be worth it if you're hiding from someone dangerous (like the Internal Revenue Service).

Despite your best efforts, you may wind up becoming an online stalker's next victim anyway. The moment someone starts sending you harassing emails or instant messages, send them exactly one message asking them to stop. In many cases, a firm and short message such as, "I'm sorry you feel that way, but I feel that you are crossing some boundaries for me, and I would prefer it if we end our communication here," will be enough to stop most people who may simply be angry at you for whatever opinions you may have expressed. If the person continues harassing you, do not reply. Some stalkers simply enjoy harassing people, so the minute you stop responding in any way, they'll get bored and look for easier prey.

The more frightening stalkers are the ones who specifically target you either because they know you or because they hold a grudge against you simply because of something you might have written in a chat room. If you continue receiving harassing emails, examine the email header to find out the harasser's ISP, and then send an email informing the ISP of the harassment. Often the ISP will send a warning to the harasser, which will end the harassment.

If the harasser's ISP doesn't respond to you and the harassment continues, store copies of every form of harassment for evidence. If the stalker makes a direct threat to you or your family, such as naming what schools your children go to or what color car you drive, contact the police immediately and give them copies of all the evidence (such as harassing email messages) you may have received. Sometimes stalkers delight in terrifying victims from afar and have no intention of harming or getting anywhere near you, but you never know, so it's better to play it safe and protect yourself.

Just as you would never wander around a dangerous neighborhood and not expect trouble, so you shouldn't roam the Internet without taking precautions. For more information about protecting yourself from cyberstalkers, visit the following sites:

Antistalking Web Site


Online Harassment

SafetyEd International