A few years ago, we had an unusual case come into our office. A private investigations firm in a large metropolitan city contacted us, said they were handling a cyberstalking case for a rock star and were we available to track this cyberstalker who appeared to be hiding in our region? If so, they’d also like us to serve a retraining order on behalf of the rock star to this individual, who by the way had stolen millions of dollars from the rock star and was apparently “mentally challenged.”
I grew up listening to this rock star’s albums, knew many of the lyrics by heart (as did my friends). When I researched this performer, I read that substantial (yes, millions) of dollars had been stolen by someone (the person we were to serve the restraining order on) several years ago. Worse, this performer had been the victim of this thief’s ugly cyberstalking.
We were surprised the PI firm contacted us considering there are hundreds of PIs in our region, but they did, and we were happy to help.
We Made One Critical Mistake
I’ll skip how we found this person (a prolonged process that took several weeks), but I will say we made one critical mistake: we left our investigation business card at a business that forwarded it to the thief-cyberstalker. We’re cautious where we leave our business cards — many times, it’s a useful practice and we need to let people know how to contact us. In this particular instance, it was a questionable business and we had evidence the cyberstalker had been visiting this establishment in person. It also appeared possible that the cyberstalker was “pals” with one of the people who worked there. When we informed our clients, the metro-PI-firm about this, they said not to worry — and insisted we leave our business card with a person who worked there. Despite our trepidation, we complied.
That came back to bite us.
We Thought the Case Was Closed
We located the thief-cyberstalker in a temporary housing shelter (this person had been savvy about hopping from place to place undetected). After serving the restraining order papers, we thought the case was closed.
Within weeks, we started receiving email messages from a bogus email account. The messages were hostile, accusatory, and the anonymous writer promised to destroy our reputations as investigators. We compared the messages to those the rock star had received (in the course of our investigations, we had received copies of several messages sent to the performer). Same grammatical errors, same style of writing. We knew we were dealing with the same cyberstalker.
When we checked the temporary housing shelter, the cyberstalker was gone.
But the email messages continued. We tracked the IP addresses — all were to public computers. The cyberstalker was writing from computers housed at libraries, coffeeshops, restaurants — places that offered free WiFi.
Tips for Handling a Cyberstalker
This is a good place to stop and review a few tips for dealing with cyberstalkers:
1. Save all correspondence, including header information in emails and other forms of electronic correspondence.
2. If you are 18 or under, let you parent (or an adult you trust) know about the cyberstalking.
3. Respond in writing with a cease & desist request. Then do not engage further with the cyberstalker. Clearly state that the contact is unwanted and that the cyberstalker should immediately stop all forms of communication. Check the filtering options on your email (and other communication services, such as social media) and apply the filtering options to halt the cyberstalker’s messages from reaching you.
4. Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and file a complaint. If you’ve learned the cyberstalker’s ISP, also file a complaint with their ISP, too. ISPs have policies in place to handle cyberstalking, such as eliminating incoming messages from the cyberstalker, if known.
5. If the cyberstalking continues, contact your local law enforcement or local prosecutor’s office to see what charges (if any) can be filed. Save these communications as well, including any police reports.
6. Consider changing your email address, phone numbers, ISP, and other contact information the cyberstalker is using. Also considering using encryption software.
In our particular case, our cyberstalker took it to the next level and started sending emails to professional organizations we belonged to, clients, others…all stating nasty fabrications (lies) about us and our investigation services. This cyberstalker had done exactly the same thing to the rock star…some of those nasty, made-up allegations about the rock star had also made it into the media.
We Took an Additional Step
We don’t recommend this to others being cyberstalked, but it’s an additional step we took: We contacted our professional organizations and let them know we were being cyberstalked. We also informed a few key clients. Everyone was appalled at the emails they’d received. They also let us know that it was obvious to them that a troubled person with “issues” was launching an unfounded attack, and they were ignoring the missives.
We had also contacted the PI firm who’d hired us, explained that the rock star’s cyberstalker was now cyberstalking us (thanks to the business card we had left with the questionable business, the cyberstalker learned our identities and contact information). The investigators contacted the rock star’s law firm who sent their own threat to the cyberstalker (they now had numerous email addresses at which to contact this person). In a nutshell, the law firm stated that as we were employees of the rock star, we were also covered by the terms of this performer’s restraining order. If the cyberstalker continued harassing us, the stalker would go to jail.
The Cyberstalking Stopped
After the law firm sent their own threatening letter to the cyberstalker, the nasty emails to us and our associates and
clients stopped. Just like that. Poof.
We were lucky in that we had immediate legal pull. We’ve known other people who continue to be cyberstalked, and they’ve set up new, protected email accounts, new phone numbers, new social media IDs, and so forth.
I sometimes read stories of this rock star, see venues where the performer is appearing, read articles about the latest music release. This performer is a legend, has a place in the rock n roll hall of fame, and I suppose to others this person might seem to lead a sweet ‘n easy glitter-filled life. But we know there was a period of time this star was a person like anybody else, dealing with a cyberstalker who had a dark agenda. And after our experience, we learned how dark.
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5 Stars for The Zen Man
"A fantastic read from start to finish. Reminded me a great deal of the works of Robert Crais and Robert B Parker." ~MacKenzie Brown
2011 – 2012 Book Blog Tour Articles
January 14, 2012: Interview w/ Colleen at Chatterrific
February 3, 2012: Coffee Time Romance: The Zen Man-Read It, Wear It
February 14, 2012 Terry's Place: Lust, Ethics, and the Private Eye
February 17, 2012 Savvy Authors: Tips from a PI-Tracking the Bad Guys in Stories
February 27, 2012 Elizabeth A White blog: Do Private Eyes Solve Murders?
February 28, 2012 Book Reviews by Elizabeth A White: The Zen Man
March 10, 2012 StoreyBook Reviews: Interview and Review
March 22, 2012 Minding Spot: Book Review
April 17, 2012 Fresh Fiction: 5 Hot Private Eye Heroes