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Saturday, May 31, 2008

2007 Cyberstalking Statistics Released

I'm posting the official press release, but the interesting items from this past year were:

1) Male and female harassers were almost equal - males were 39%, females 30% (the remainder were unknown gender by the victim). We began calculating statistics at WHOA in 2000, and back then 68% of harassers were male. Over the years, we've seen the number of female harassers increasing, which wasn't a total surprise. Most people think they can remain "anonymous" online, which leads to more women harassing not only exes, but complete strangers and not just men - women are being harassed by women more frequently. It's sad when you work on cases with victims and see how a supposed adult female (or male, for that matter) act like immature children.

2) Although only 7% of the cases involved harassment by a family member, what was very surprising was that almost all of those cases involved an estranged *father* as the harasser. Yep, you read right. Scary, isn't it?

3) We saw an increase in how the harassment started by means other than the usual email, message boards, IM and chat. Those include Myspace, Facebook, Craigslist, photo web sites, gaming web sites, blogs, guestbook and forged profiles on dating or other sites.

I always said that as more people went online, more people would be harassed. My prediction is coming true. It's not that people are inherently bad, it's just that the perceived anonymity is what does it. And that the majority of web sites hosting forums, networking, etc do not live up to their terms of service or do not feel they should account for who joins their sites.

Not to pick on any one site in particular, but because of their popularity, Myspace and Facebook are the worst offenders. They do not make you prove you are a real person when you join. If they did (and yes, that would mean more money out of their pockets to institute a viable verification system - which CAN be done) the majority of harassment, bullying, predators and scam artists would significantly decline. Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail and other free email/services need to do the same thing. I have worked on too many cases where someone has opened a free email account, sent the victim harassing/threatening emails, shut down the account, then opened up a new one and kept up the harassment.

For example, my niece and nephew (ages 11 and 9 respectively) have a web sites on Freewebs.com. They're kids. It's a cute site. But in the last few weeks, some idiot has been harassing them, even putting up an anti site encouraging people to put nasty comments on the kids site. Their mom and dad filed complaints with Freewebs, but got no reply. I sent a complaint on their behalf (without mentioning I was their aunt) and got a reply that the subscriber had to file the complaint. When I fired back that they HAD complained and got no response, the offending page was taken down. Then this harasser guessed the kids password (which has since been changed to something I created for them) and put up a nasty page on their site. If Freewebs had taken the complaint seriously when it first was sent, this person wouldn't have gone any further (I would hope). Now I'm fighting with them to be more responsive. Grrr.

If these web sites took some accountability for their services and had a safer environment, responded to users complaints PROMPTLY and verified users, the Internet wouldn't be the sh--hole it's fast becoming. If we, the people, don't stand up and say we're sick and tired of the spammers, scammers, predators, harassers, trolls, bullies and general bad guys online, then you know what will eventually happen? The governments of the world will get together and take control of the Internet and you and I will lose control of a very wonderful thing we've been given.

There are many terrific web sites out there. There are great people out there. But the bad guys discovered a long time ago how to use the Internet for their nefarious ways and it's hurting the rest of us.

I've said my piece. Here's the official press release:

Press Contacts:
Jayne Hitchcock,
President of WHOA
whoa@haltabuse.org

Dee Andersson
WHOA PR
whoapr@haltabuse.org
WHOA Press Release #2008-5
For Immediate Release

LEADING ONLINE SAFETY ORGANIZATION RELEASES LATEST CYBERSTALKING STATISTICS

WHOA Shows How Online Trends Have Changed The Past Eight Years
May, 2008 - Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) released their 2007 cyberstalking statistics today, as well as cumulative statistics for the past eight years, from 2000-2007. WHOA is the oldest and largest all-volunteer online safety organization that has been continuously helping adult victims of cyberstalking since 1997. WHOA is the only online organization to provide the most up-to-date cyberstalking statistics and cumulative trends.

WHOA statistics represent cases where victims completed questionnaires in their entirety, but the figures do not represent the total number of cases that are brought to WHOA, which average 50-75 cases each week. All criteria gathered are only from victims who fill out the voluntary demographic information in the questionnaires provided on the WHOA web site at haltabuse.org , thus ensuring comparable and meaningful statistics. WHOA estimates they handle between 50-75 cases a week.

“In addition to victim questionnaires, we work on cases directly with law enforcement, on high profile cases we have been directly approached for, or with victim assistance organizations or lawyers,” notes Jayne Hitchcock, WHOA president. “We don’t see online harassment and cyberstalking disappearing anytime in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, creative, clever and skilled perpetrators develop new twists and turns on a daily basis focused to target new victims. This includes, but is not limited to predators, bullies, and scams. More people go online for the first time each and every single day, making them vulnerable to the ‘bad guys’ out there. Currently there are over one billion people online worldwide – if only one percent become victims, that’s ten million people!”

The trust WHOA earns from victims they have helped enables the group to develop reliable cyberstalking demographic numbers. However, as the statistics are generated from information supplied by the victims, verification is not always possible. WHOA bases their cyberstaling statistics on a total of 2,285 completed questionnaires over the past eight years, 249 of those from 2007. Although females are still the primary victims, with males as the primary harassers, male victims and female harassers have significantly increased over the years. : The complete statistics are located on the WHOA Web site.

• Both Male and Female harassers in 2007 were almost dead even, where there was a significant 10% difference between the two last year, with males being the primary harasser. This significant trend shows that the perceived anonymity of the Internet provides female harassers with an opportunity to terrorize victims of both sexes.

• In 2007, WHOA saw a decrease in victims aged 18-30, from 40% to 28%, and victims aged 31-40, from 29% in 2006 down to 24%, while those aged 41 and over was about the same. However, many victims were relunctant to reveal their ages last year, an increase of over 15% over 2006.

• More than half of the victims did not know their harassers last year, reinforcing the fact that not all online stalking victims are being harassed by an ex.

• However, those who did know their harasser saw a marked decrease in the “ex” factor – while 47% were harassed by an ex in 2006, only 31% were harassed by an ex last year.

• A surprising change were victims harassed by a family member – an increase of almost 9%. WHOA received complaints of victims being harassed not only by co-workers, employees, fellow students, teachers, or friends, but also roommates, customers and case involving co-owners of a business who had a falling out.

• California, repeated it’s position of being number one when it comes to victims and harassers, which hasn’t changed over the last eight years (except for 2000, when Texas was the number one location for harassers). Canada took 2nd place for the third year in a row for victims, and swapped places with New York as the 2nd location of harassers last year.

• Email still remained the primary way victims were contacted by harassers, no matter where they encountered their harasser previously, with an increase of 5% over the previous year. Email was followed by message boards (which includes forums, groups and usenet), Instant Messaging (IM), Web sites, chat, Myspace and eBay. . Other ways harassment began included Craigslist, photo Web sites, online gaming, blogs, forged profiles and Facebook.

• Online escalation of the harassment sharply rose from 40.5% to 600% between 2004 and 2005, dropped to 44% in 2006 and then increased again in 2007 to 55%.

• The escalation included (in this order) email, message boards, impersonation (forged profiles on social networking, dating and personal ad sites), IM, Web sites, Craigslist, chat, Myspace, blogs and text messages (via cell phones).

• Offline harassment/physical violence threats went up to 24% versus 22% last year but the number of victims who reported harassment to law enforcement, the harasser’s Internet service provider (ISP) or someone else dropped from last year’s 72.5% to 59% in 2007.

• Only 44% of the cases involved victims and harassers located in the same state or country

WHOA successfully resolved 74% of the cases they received in 2007. These sometimes involved multiple actions, which included WHOA contacting the ISP, web host, moderator or other online entity; or the victim made changes, such as their password, username, email address, profiles or changing options in their online account. In the 26% of cases WHOA couldn’t resolve, victims were either referred to law enforcement or a lawyer, or it wasn’t a case (usually spam).

So, why do online harassers do it? According to WHOA President Jayne Hitchcock, “it is practically impossible to know exactly what triggers someone to do what they do online. For the stranger-on-stranger cases, just like road rage on the highway, you don’t know why that person starts chasing someone else in their car. It’s the same thing on the information superhighway, what I call‘Internet road rage,’ – you don’t know what someone starts harassing someone online and ‘chasing’ them online.It could start with an innocent statement that the harasser perceives as a personal insult or injustice, or it may be the result of faulty information, rumor, jealousy, inflated ego, or just a result of a simple misunderstanding that escalated and grew to become a serious problem.”

WHOA president Jayne Hitchcock is a cyber crime expert who trains law enforcement from the local to federal level, and assists the US Department of Justice Office (USDJO) for Victims of Crime and National Center for Victims of Crime. She trains advocate groups, conducts seminars, raises awareness of cyber crime and harassment and lectures educators, librarians, parents and students at middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities about the dangers of bullies, predators, stalkers and online social networking sites. She has appeared as an expert in various media, including America’s Most Wanted, PEOPLE magazine, Primetime Thursday with Diane Sawyer, TIME magazine, the Associated Press, The Montel Williams Show, A&E’s Investigative Reports, 48 Hours, Ladies Home Journal, Campus Security Reports, Inside Edition, Good Morning America and CNN. Her latest book, Net Crimes & Misdemeanors 2nd editon, highlights online crimes, how to be safer online and what to do if you are victimized.Video Professor recently released a 3-CD tutorial based on the book.

To interview Hitchcock, please contact her via email whoa@haltabuse.org. Statistics may be quoted in media and on web sites with appropriate recognition to WHOA. To learn more about WHOA, or if you know someone who needs help, please visit the web site.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

In loving memory of SSgt Christopher N. Hitchcock, USMC - Ooh-rah!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Myspace Suicide, Backscattering

I wrote about the Megan Meier Myspace suicide a few months ago when it hit the media and I was interviewed about it. Back then, when no copies of the messages Megan received were released, I had to go on what I was told and read in news accounts, which was that a "boy" her age communicated with her via Myspace, then turned around and began calling her fat and other things. What it came down to was that although what had been written to her was mean, it was not cyberstalking, which is a crime in the state of Missouri, where she lived at the time. It could have been considered cyberbullying, but there were no laws in place then to cover that. I felt awful for her parents and angry at the woman who forged the profile of the "boy" to egg Megan on, causing her to commit suicide. I always knew there was more to the story and yesterday's indictment of this woman (in her 40s, no less - an adult? I think not, pfft) proved my gut feeling was right: Woman indicted in Missouri MySpace suicide case.

Turns out the woman, who posed as this boy, befriended Megan, then began getting nasty to her and the last message Megan allegedly received told her the world would be better off without her. She killed herself after that.

I hope this woman gets the book thrown at her. An IP address will trace back to the originating ISP and computer/account used to open this "boy's" account and where the posts were made from. So she can deny all she wants, but when the IP address(es) trace back to her home or account, she's done. And she can try the "oh, I wasn't on the computer on the time" blame game, but you know what? If it's your account, you're responsible for who uses it. So YOU should be the one to pay.

Nuf said before I blow my top.

--------------------

A few weeks ago, I posted that a spammer was forging my netcrimes email address in spam, as I was getting literally thousands of undeliverable error messages in my Inbox. Turns out this is happening to a lot of people lately. And my official WHOA email address has been hit as well. A friend sent me the following article, 100 E-mail Bouncebacks? You've Been Backscattered, although mine have been in the thousands, not the hundreds.

This shows how easy it is for spammers to change the FROM line in their email programs to your email address, send out their spam, then let you get the brunt of any undeliverable messages. Thank god for my spam filtering software. But what a pain in the butt this is.

So if you start getting those error messages, no, your email account was NOT hacked into, no one hijacked it, it's just the spammers being clever in using your email address as their return address in their spam messages. The best advice I can give is to get a good anti-spam filtering program such as Vanquish, SpamArrest or Mailwasher. I reviewed all three of these for some computer magazines and liked them all. I stuck with Mailwasher - it's my personal fave.

Gmail also has a good anti-spam system. For a free email account, they are the best.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Please note - this is going too far

An electrician I had a bad experience with and posted my PERSONAL OPINIONS about has decided to try to make my life miserable. Note how the support I've been getting is making him look worse. He is making the mistake of emailing and faxing people who know me well (this one is my booking agent) and I have contacted my lawyer. I have had to warn my upcoming speaking engagements about this guy. This is now becoming libel and slander.

From: "Scott Wolfman"
To: "JAH"
Subject: Fw: Web request for more information
Date: Wed, 14 May 2008 09:35:02 -0500

wow, see below. What's this all about?

Thanks,

Scott

Scott Wolfman, President
Wolfman Productions, Inc.
Providing an eclectic mix of high quality speakers, debates, and performing
arts programs.
Come visit us on the web at http://www.wolfmanproductions.com
800-735-4933

----- Original Message -----
From:
To:
Sent: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 6:32 AM
Subject: Web request for more information


> Below is the result of your feedback form. It was submitted by
> (northeastelectric@(removed for privacy purposes)) on Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 06:32:10
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
-
>
>
> name: Dan Gilmore
>
> organization: Northeast Electric
>
> area: 603
>
> phone: (removed for privacy purposes)
>
> xara: 603
>
> fax: (removed for privacy purposes)
>
> address: (removed for privacy purposes)
> Portsmouth,New Hampshire,03802
>
> event: Possible Picketing Of all Or any Of Jayne Hitchcock Events
>
> budget: $
>
> program: * Jayne A. Hitchcock
>
> comments: We are notifiying you of our possible intention to (Legaly
Demonstrate)at any or all events that include Jayne Hitchcock to Dispell The
Horid and Unbelievable lies she has printed online about our Company and we
are also seriously considering a civil Slander lawsuit against her personaly
for her lies that she put online,We are writing this to you to inform you
that we in NO WAY have anything against your organization but olny against
Jayne Hitchcock-Supposed Profesional Witness who has lied to her public
readers and this company can prove it in a court of law.We are truely sorry
if this could have any negative publicity for your organization wich is what
we are against her for(she may have caused our company Financial losses wich
may be recouped should we decide to persue this in court according to our
legal counsel),we hold no anamosity towards your company and would be glad
to state that publicly if asked to do so.I thank you for your time and sorry
to have to in!
> volve you with any of this problemWe have been in business since 1986 and
have the complete respect of many state and federal agencies wich we have
worked for,There is no substance to her allegations and we will not allow
them to slip by unchecked,please feel free to contact me if you have any
questions.Thank You.Sincerly:Dan Gilmore-Northeast Electric LLC-603- (removed for privacy purposes)
>
> sendpostal: sendpostal
>
> sendfax: sendfax
>
> sendemail: sendemail
>
> submit: Submit To Wolfman Productions
>
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
-

Friday, May 09, 2008

Kids, Camden, Re-Bath, more

We had Chris' two oldest kids (a boy, 13 and girl, 11) over spring break a couple of weeks ago. Going from never having kids to suddenly having two for a whole week was more than my poor body could handle, LOL. The kids were great, normal for their ages, with the usual little brother/sister spats, moods and being annoying, but overall they were good about helping around the house and just having fun.

C spent time with me helping me start tomato seeds in the house and moving some daylilies from one spot in the yard to another. She helped me with laundry and other things, but I took her to see "Horton Hears A Who," which was really good, even for adults, we got our nails done together and just had fun talking and stuff.

We all played Wii, took the kids for rides in the Jeep (it's colder up here on the coast from where they live in Western Massachusetts and they were freezing, ha ha), took them to the beach one day and let them dive into the water (hey, they insisted even when I told them the water was cold). We took Bandit and Guin to the beach with us and Bandit loves walking in the water. Guin just likes bouncing around.

The kids helped us plant our new aborvitaes along the stone wall separating us from our crazy neighbor who likes to wear women's lingerie and be naked in full view of my house, among other things (such as peeing and pooping off his back porch - yuck). Although they're only two feet tall now, if they grow as fast as everything else in my yard, they'll be taller soon.

One day a friend brought her grandkids over (the same ages) and we let them run riot in the yard and played Wii. Another day we took the kids to my stepsister's house and let them play with her kids and my other stepsister's daughter. They have a big pond stocked with fish, so I fished (catch and release) and ended up catching two good sized one. Now I want to get a fishing pole and go fishing. I forgot how much I enjoyed doing that.

My CFS kicked in full time by the end of the week with the kids and I got a nasty cold. How do you explain to two kids about CFS? Chris and I just told them it was a cold I picked up. I ended up crashing after they left. I also called my sister and told her how much I admired her for bringing up her kids, now that I know firsthand how hard it can be. She thought that was hilarious.

The day we dropped the kids off, we finally picked out our wedding bands. Chris ended up getting a 14K gold band with rounded steel edges. The place we bought it from doesn't have a photo on the site, so I'll take one and post it soon. It's very different, but beautiful. I got an emerald and diamond band that matches the style of my engagement ring. It's being sized and when it gets back, I'll post that photo, too.

The following weekend, we went away to Camden, Maine. I had done the Michael Gogger Radio Show for the third time recently. He's a psychic and does mini readings after our interview. He is VERY good and has been on the money so far. He had told me we'd been thinking about getting away for a weekend (which we had) and we needed to do it before we got married. He also said Chris was stressed about a lot of things and not to worry about his business, it would get busy soon and he would be successful. So far, he's right.

So, in Camden, I found a sweet deal on a cottage with a jacuzzi tub and fireplace at The Lodge at Camden Hills. We got three nights for the price of two *plus* 25% off the entire stay. The cottage was perfect and the jacuzzi was put to good use (wink wink). It was wonderful. We ate at Atlantica the first night because I'm friends with the bartender, Ron. Superb dinner and the owners came over to chat with us.

The next day we played tourists and went to Breakwater Lighthouse, which is at the end of a 7/8 mile breakwater, so we got our exercise, LOL; the Maine Lighthouse Museum; and the Owl's Head Transportation Museum. At the Lighthouse Museum, smack dab in the entrance was a huge diorama that my late husband and his dad had made. Chris wasn't sure how I'd be, but it was nice to see their work in public and being admired. It did make me sad and in the car, Chris held me. He is so good to me.

That night we met up with friends Terry and Jacob for dinner at Francine Bistro, a nifty, casual restaurant in Camden. Terry is a best-selling mystery author and we've become fast friends over the past few months. It's so hard to make female friends who understand your writing work and what you do. Turns out we had a situation in common (a case I worked on) and we laughed at the coincidence. We followed them to their house for ice cream and cappuccino. Their house is right on the ocean and is gorgeous. They own four donkeys (used to have five) and we had a really good time with them. I wish they lived closer (it's almost three hours to Camden from our house).

Saturday we spent the day driving up to Bar Harbor, stopping off for breakfast in Belfast and hitting flea markets, yard sales and such along the way. We ended up buying a few odds and ends and having a good time. Then I took the plunge and we went back to Rockland and I got my first (and last) tattoo. Yep. I did it. It's on my left shoulder, of a purple iris - my favorite flower. The tattoo shop was clean, the guy who owned the place did my tatto and it is beautiful. Photos to be posted soon, I promise.

The day we left for Camden, the guys from Re-Bath were putting in our new tub and shower. So when we got home, the bathroom looks totally different and we ended up getting a new sink with vanity to complement it. It is soooooo nice to take a bath in a tub that's not old and bumpy and walls that aren't tile that are pushing into the wall and moldy. They ended up pretty much replacing the one wall of tile. Our friend, Joanne, stayed at the house while we were gone and she was amazed at how wonderful the tub looks now. Plus, we got a massaging shower head - yay!

Photo link of the before/after of that to be posted soon.

I was going to write more, but I have to get to work. Will post more soon.