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  • Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes

Dealing with Cyberstalkers

Posted by Writing PIs on May 13, 2015

Internet investigations

A few weeks ago, a defamatory “book review” showed up on Amazon — the term book review is in quotes because in no way was it a review of a book. Instead, it was a malicious character attack written by someone hiding behind a bogus ID. Unfortunately, I’m not the only author to deal with such non-book-related reviews written by people with personal agendas.

Contacting Amazon About Vengeful Reviews

By vengeful, I mean reviews that contain no analysis of the book, only mean-spirited, spiteful content directed at the author.

Letter Template

Below is part of the letter I wrote to abuse@amazonaws.com. I have replaced real names and titles so this letter is basically a template.


Dear Amazon:

An abusive comment written by “[bogus ID]” remains in a book review for [book title] [link to book review]:
 
[screen shot of review here]
 
This review does not meet Amazon’s review submission guidelines because:
  • It contains no information about the book itself
  • Content is spiteful
  • Content directs readers to go to other sites that are not associated with the book or Amazon
  • Content only contains malicious attacks on the author

For the above reasons, I request you to please delete this review.

Sincerely, [name]


The above bulleted list specifically addresses content Amazon deems unacceptable in reviews. To read more about Amazon’s review guidelines, click here.

I Found More Evidence About This Cyberstalker

Some cyber-searching revealed this person had cyberstalked before

Internet searches revealed this person had cyberstalked before

Additionally, I did some Internet research on this “reviewer” (thanks to a writer-friend’s lead) and found a connection that revealed his real name. From there, I conducted background research and found a police report where this individual had been reported for cyberstalking several years earlier. I forwarded all of that data to Amazon.

This evidence was powerful, but it’s not always the case that such compelling data is discovered. But even without it, I believe Amazon would have taken down the review due to it violating its review policies.

By the way, it might take Amazon several weeks, even a month, to follow up on a takedown request. If you are waiting for Amazon’s response, resist the urge to click on the bad review link, and ask friends and family not to click it, either. Simply put, clicking = interest and interest = higher ranking. You don’t want that vengeful “review” getting more attention.

Others Stalked on Amazon

Sometimes in a big way. Some of you might recall several years back when a Michael Jackson fan group bombarded a book on Amazon (which they felt was derogatory about MJ) with hundreds of one-star reviews.

Below are some articles and threads written by writers on this topic. Although some say Amazon suggests responding to a stalker’s comment, we at Guns, Gams and Gumshoes advise against it (see “Tips for Handling a Cyberstalker” below).

KDP Thread: Dealing with a Stalker

I Was Stalked on Amazon.com

Wish I could say this recent cyberstalking episode was our first, but it’s not.

A Book Blog Tour Stalker

This happened almost five years ago, only this stalker didn’t stop at fake reviews. He saw where we were 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.

Working with Blog Hosts

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.

Blog Host Put a Stop to It

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. Yes, those were his exact words. Must have hurt the stalker’s feelings because after that his public shenanigans stopped cold. He 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 that he was going to post a public comment to embarrass the stalker, we would have requested there be no public exchange.

We don’t specialize 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.

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

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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