Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

What to Do If You’re Stalked on Amazon or Anywhere on the Internet

Posted by Writing PIs on January 26, 2013

Internet investigations

Over a year ago, we were stalked on Amazon (and Barnes & Noble and other sites).  The stalker didn’t even bother to write a review, he just copied and pasted portions of an irrelevant, inapplicable public record that, taken out of context, was made to seem like a current indictment.  The content wasn’t even remotely related to books or writing.  And, of course, he (yes, we had a very good idea who it was) always used bogus IDs unless a site allowed “anonymous” comments.

We Contacted Amazon and Barnes & Noble

We explained that someone, hiding behind anonymous or bogus IDs, was copying and pasting non-book-related material as comments, and requested the comments be deleted.  Unfortunately, neither company responded quickly, so the material stayed up for weeks.  Approximately a month later, the offensive content was finally removed on both sites.

Others Have Been Stalked on Amazon

Unfortunately, it happens.  Sometimes in a big way, as shown recently by a Michael Jackson fans group who bombarded a book on Amazon (which they felt was derogatory about MJ) with hundreds of one-star reviews.

Mostly, it’s people who, out of the blue, realize they have their own personal stalker.  Below are some articles and threads written by writers on this topic.  Although some say Amazon suggests responding with your own comment to a stalker’s comment, we advise against this (see “Tips for Handling a Cyberstalker” below).

KDP Thread: Dealing with a Stalker

I Was Stalked on Amazon.com

The Stalker Followed Us on a Book Blog Tour

The stalker didn’t stop at fake reviews.  He saw where one of us was on a book blog tour and posted derogatory comments at each site.  Yes, we had our own tag-a-long book-blog stalker.  He hadn’t even read the book, how rude.

We contacted our blog hosts ahead of time, briefly explained that we had our very own personal stalker and suggested the host monitor all comments and delete his offensive rants.  Oh, and to please forward us the stalker’s IP address, thank you.  Gee, imagine our surprise (not) to see all these derogatory comments were from the same IP address.

One of our hosts (decorated ex-military, unafraid to tangle with anyone) posted one of the stalker’s rants, and publicly censured the stalker for acting like a cowardly baby hiding behind his mommy’s skirts. That must have hurt the stalker’s feelings because after that his public shenanigans stopped cold.  Just…disappeared.  Poof!  Like smoke.

smoke from empty boots

We didn’t know that particular host would do that — in fact, if we had been told ahead of time, we would have requested there be no public exchange.  Our approach had been to ignore the stalker.  We don’t specializing in stalking cases, but we have been contacted by writers and others who are being stalked, and we always suggest they ignore the stalker and document all activity in case the person wishes to later involve the police or hire an attorney.

What Is Stalking?

Classically, it is a repeated pattern of unwanted, offensive contact intended to harass or frighten the subject. The Internet, unfortunately, provides opportunities for stalkers to anonymously intimidate their victims.

We’ve Been Stalked Before

Wish we could say the Amazon-B&N-book-blog-tour stalker was our first.  It wasn’t.  He was our third.

Stalker #1.  The first time, we followed the trail to a former investigative subject who wasn’t very happy that we found evidence hat and magnifying glass on computerthat she had lied to the federal government (who were, in turn, extremely unhappy with her deceit).  Because we were working on behalf of a law firm, one of the lawyers wrote her and threatened to bring up her stalking in court if she didn’t stop.  She stopped.

Stalker #2.  The second time, we were serving a restraining order on a rather infamous stalker who had bilked millions of dollars from a famous rock star.  I know, sounds like a smarmy Entertainment Tonight story, but it’s true.  The stalker discovered our identities and began stalking us.  She was rather good, too, as in knowing how to send emails from public IP addresses so she couldn’t be tracked, moving undetected from one residence to another, and so forth.

Again, because we were working on behalf of the rock star’s law firm, they included us in the restraining order as an agent of the rock star who was the primary protected person.  The law firm informed the stalker, in very clear terms, that if she stalked us one more time, they would file a motion for contempt and request she go to jail.  She stopped her stalking.

Colleen wrote about this in her article “How We Handled a Rockstar’s Cyberstalker Who Decided to Stalk Us, Too”

Stalker #3.  We had a good idea who this third stalker was.  After accruing the various IP addresses from his anonymous postings on blogs, we traced them to the region where he lived.  Anyone can trace an IP address to a region (but it requires a warrant or subpoena to request an ISP customer’s personal information).  Here’s an article on this topic:

“How to Locate People by IP Address” by Colleen Collins for eHow

If he hadn’t stopped his harassment, we were prepared to hire an attorney to subpoena the ISP for the stalker’s personal information, after which our attorney would write the stalker to cease and desist from continuing such postings.  But he stopped, so we didn’t take these steps.

Tips for Handling a Cyberstalker

Here are some tips for handling a cyberstalker.

1. Save all correspondence, including header information in emails and other forms of electronic correspondence.

2. If you are 18 or under, let your 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.

Resources on Cyberstalking

HaltAbuse.org: Working to Halt Online Abuse

Reputation.com: How to Prevent or Defend Against Online Stalking

Women’s Web: Violence Against Women – Stalking

Have a good weekend, Writing PIs

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