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Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is when a person keeps constant track of you online in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, worried or threatened.

On this page:

What is cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking is the use of digital technology to track and harass someone. 

Cyberstalking behaviour can include:

  • constantly checking in on someone and trying to get their attention even when they make it clear that they are not interested
  • making repeated unwanted contact with someone by calling, emailing, texting, messaging, or asking inappropriate questions
  • repeatedly sending, posting or sharing unwanted sexual requests, sexual or offensive content, abusive comments, or false accusations to or about someone
  • monitoring someone’s movements using the location (GPS) technologies that are built into the operating systems of phones and fitness apps, or using tracking devices or spyware
  • following or contacting someone across multiple online accounts and making it known they can’t hide 
  • accessing or hacking someone’s online accounts to find their personal information, track their movements, read their emails or messages, or change their passwords to lock them out of their own accounts
  • ‘gaslighting’ a person by changing their environment in small ways that are difficult to prove to others, such as using remotes to turn internet-connected devices on and off within their home.

Sometimes cyberstalking starts as over-enthusiastic interest in a person or an invasion of their privacy. But often the intentions are far worse right from the beginning – the person doing the cyberstalking may want to scare, humiliate, coerce or control someone, or harm their credibility or reputation.

Cyberstalking is often accompanied by offline stalking and it can lead to physical danger. Threats of sexual abuse or other forms of physical violence should be reported to the police.

Cyberstalking is also often a type of tech abuse that is part of domestic and family violence, but going offline does not fix the problem. Someone in an abusive relationship or who has left an abusive partner needs to be able to use digital technology, such as a mobile phone or computer, so they can find support and stay in touch with trusted friends and family. 

Do you feel unsafe right now?

If you are in Australia and in immediate danger or at risk of harm call Triple Zero (000).

Contact your local police on 131 444 if there are threats to your safety or threats to your friends or family members.

How to spot cyberstalking

If you start receiving repeated unwanted and annoying messages or start feeling harassed, you may need to ask yourself if you are being cyberstalked. 

The person doing it can be:

  • someone you don’t know 
  • someone you have met, but you are not friends with 
  • a friend, family member or carer
  • a partner or ex-partner.

The following warning signs may indicate that you are being cyberstalked.

Someone doesn’t take NO for an answer

You have made it clear that you are not interested, don’t want to be contacted by someone or have simply ignored their messages. But this person doesn’t take no for an answer and keeps sending messages or trying to contact you.

Someone engages with every post you make

The same person’s name keeps popping up in your notifications all the time, on every service or site that you use. 

Someone tries to follow your family and friends

You have unfriended or unfollowed someone or have not accepted their requests, so they try to get inside your social network to monitor your social life and check where you are and what you are doing. 

Someone constantly asks where you are and what you are doing

Someone you know, such as a partner or ex-partner, constantly posts or sends messages that are harassing, threatening or demanding, such as ‘What are you doing?’, ‘Who are you with?’, ‘Where are you?’, 'If you don't get home soon I'm coming to find you.' They may also start contacting friends or family to check up on you.

Someone wants to rescue you

You are being threatened or receiving unwanted contact and someone steps in to offer advice and support, but they seem to know a lot about what is going on. Their intention is to separate you from your social circles, so they can come to ‘rescue’ you, making you grateful and trusting even though they are secretly the one who caused the problem.  

What to do if you suspect you are being cyberstalked

Cyberstalking is dangerous and can develop into physical abuse. Do not wait to report cyberstalking. If cyberstalking behavior or online abuse gets worse, there is a greater risk of emotional or physical harm. 

All Australian jurisdictions have laws dealing with cyberstalking. If you are in Australia and in immediate danger call the police on Triple Zero (000). Otherwise, you can contact your local police through the police assistance line (131 444). You can also contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for advice and support.

Read our tips on how to get help from the police.

How eSafety can help

If content sent, posted or shared online is intended to harm the physical or mental health of the person targeted, it may meet the definition of adult cyber abuse. This could be the case if the person doing the cyberstalking keeps posting humiliating, abusive or intimidating comments about you, if they share your personal information online (doxing), if they threaten to harm you, or if they use a fake account to pretend to be you in order to harm your reputation or relationships.

Adult cyber abuse should be reported to the online service of platform. If the online service or platform doesn’t help, and the harmful content meets the definition of adult cyber abuse, eSafety can investigate and may be able to have it removed. 

If the person doing the cyberstalking shares or threatens to share nudes or other intimate images or videos of you without your consent, that is image-based abuse. You can report it to eSafety straight way and we will help have the image or video removed.

These are the steps you can take:


  1. Collect evidence

    Collect evidence by taking a screenshot of the chat or post – if things turn nasty you might need it as evidence to report the behaviour to online services, police or eSafety. Find out more about how to collect evidence


  2. Report harmful content

    Report harmful posts or profiles to the app, online service or platform. You can find reporting links for most apps in The eSafety Guide.

    If the harmful content is serious enough to meet the legal definition of adult cyber abuse, and the service or platform does not remove it, you can report to eSafety using our online form and we will help to have it removed.

    In cases of image-based abuse, when someone shares or threatens to share an intimate image of you, report to eSafety immediately.


  3. Prevent further contact 

    Once you have collected evidence, you can use in-app functions or the settings on the web browser to mute, unfollow or block the other person and change your privacy settings. The eSafety Guide has advice on key online safety functions for many online services, including online dating apps.

    For image-based abuse, stop all contact with the other person. You can use in-app functions to ignore or mute them, but don't block them until you are advised to do so by eSafety or the police.


  4. Get more help

    Experiencing or helping someone who has experienced serious online abuse can be very distressing.

    You may find it helpful to use the strategies we recommend for managing the impacts of adult cyber abuse, including tips for taking care of your wellbeing.

    You can also find counselling and support that is right for you.

    You can also find out more about tech abuse that is part of domestic and family violence.

    You may also be able to take out a protection order against the abusive person.

How to reduce the risk of cyberstalking

It is important to remember that if someone is cyberstalking you it is never your fault – they are the one doing the wrong thing. However, there are things you can do to help protect yourself from it.

Set strong passcodes and passwords 

Protect your personal identity information like your full name, home address, phone numbers, date of birth, email address, passwords and bank details. 

Turn off location services and restrict access to GPS data

You can use your account or device settings to control or restrict who has access to your location or GPS data.

Don’t give away location information by mistake

Avoid posting information that may allow others to work out where you are (like photos that show street signs) or where you go regularly (like the name of your workplace, gym or church), and don’t check into locations on your apps.

Set your online accounts to private

By adjusting your privacy settings, you can stay in control of who sees what you post or share online and who can contact you directly. 

Update your software

Regular software updates help reduce the risk of security exposure or information leaks.

Real stories

‘I met someone on a dating app a few months ago but it didn’t really go anywhere.’

'We hooked up twice and did not see each other again but every time I posted something online, or a photo, they liked it or made a comment. I initially thought ‘That’s OK’, but they were so persistent that I was starting to feel harassed.

They repeatedly sent messages asking me out and I politely invented excuses, but he didn’t seem to get the point. So, I talked to a friend, and it turned out that she had a similar experience, with the same guy! I couldn’t believe it! This guy was a total cyberstalker.

I took screenshots of his messages, I reported him to the platform, including sharing my friend’s story, blocked him and changed my privacy settings. He hasn’t contacted me again, but I can’t stop thinking that there might be other transwomen like me at risk of getting cyberstalked by this creep.’ – Sarah*

Read more stories from the LGBTIQ+ community.

*The personal story quoted here is a real account taken from our community engagement sessions, only the name has been changed.

More information

This page offers general advice for adults experiencing cyberstalking. Tailored information is also available for kids, young people, parents and anyone experiencing unwanted contact as part of domestic and family violence.
 

Last updated: 17/09/2023