Stalking Awareness Month: Tech Safety
Before starting my work as an advocate, the only time I had to worry about “stalking” was when someone said “Facebook stalking,” or “Instagram stalking,” etc. I came from a sheltered world where stalking seemed like a joke, and a “normal” thing to do to someone on social media platforms – not a serious matter. The reality of the matter is that stalking is easier than ever before. I can look anyone up and find out what school they went to, what they drive, what their children look like, and where they went on their last family vacation.
Many times, we go through life thinking, “That will never happen to me.” I’ve heard so many men and women say they thought this just before something horrible happened to them, and by then it’s just too late to take any preventative action – you become stuck in a cycle and can’t seem to figure out how you got there in the first place. With 7.5 million victims of stalking in the U.S. last year (victimsofcrime.org), it becomes everyone’s responsibility to become aware, become educated, and learn what you can do to protect yourself.
Below is a list of things you can do to protect yourself with the ever-changing advances in technology – trust me, it’s a bit harder to do than you think:
LOCATION SETTINGS (on an iPhone):
Step 1: Go to “Settings” and click “Privacy.”
Step 2: Under “Privacy,” click “Location Services."
Step 3: Under “Location Services,” click “System Services” - this should be on very bottom.
Step 4: Your phone will automatically allow certain location-based settings. Under “System Services,” you can turn off “Share my location” by hitting the green button on the right, and then click “Frequent locations."
Step 5: Under “Frequent Locations,” you can then see the history of the places you have been. After getting this far, you can click “Clear History,” and the green button after “Frequent Locations,” which will then turn your frequent locations OFF - this will no longer track any of your locations.
Step 6: If you are interested in seeing what this looks like before clearing and turning off this setting, you can click on any of the locations above and it will actually show the dates you were there. A map will show up like the image above.
Step 7: If you take that even further and click on any of the locations, it will actually show you a specific area you were at. Yikes!
Step 8: Go back to your “Frequent Locations” settings and double check to ensure this is turned off. From here on out, your phone will no longer track where you go, and no one can figure out where you have been.
If you are an Android user, we’ve attached link to a quick and easy video that can walk you through the process of turning off your location settings on your phone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_zR5JAbd0Y
In addition to turning off your location settings on your phone, here are a few other small things you can do to prevent stalking:
- Don’t post your location along with your Instagram, Facebook, or other social media pictures.
- If you’re a Facebook user, set your privacy settings to “Friends Only.” This will keep complete strangers (and friends of friends) from seeing anything you post or “like.”
- On other social media platforms, you can set your account to “Private.” On Instagram and Twitter, you will have to then allow another user to follow you after they request to do so.
- Don’t update your social media statuses with dates you will be out of town.
- For example, I’ve seen many friends post, “I’ll be out of town from July 3rd – 6th and need someone to come take care of my cat.” Or something along those lines. If reaching out to friends via Facebook for a sitter of any sort, don’t post specifics. If anyone is interested, you can give them details privately.
- Similarly, if you do go out of town for a vacation, don’t post pictures until you have gotten back home. This will help prevent anyone from figuring out where you are through social media updates.
- Don’t post an image of your car for sale on any “Swap” sites or sale sites if it includes a license plate in the picture. If needed, you can blur out the license plate number with other apps or certain phones.
- Keep a piece of paper taped over your webcam on your desktop or laptop computers. You’d be surprised what people can see if they hack hard enough!
- If you’re a Snapchat user, turn your location settings to Ghost Mode! This is a big one right now – many victims of stalking are being tracked through Snapchat.
- It might be worth keeping your work information off your social media sites. Many victims tell us they find notes from their stalker on their car at work.
The list to protect yourself via social media and mobile devices could go on, but here are a few small things you can do to keep yourself safe from stalking. Prevention can save you.
Advocates are available to walk you through these steps 24/7 if you call our Helpline. 1-800-770-1650