Somebody won't leave me alone

Sometimes at Coode & Corry we talk to clients who are being stalked or harassed by someone, there is ongoing unwanted contact but they cannot make the person leave them alone. 

If this is happening to you, you should of course speak with the Police.  If they won’t take steps to protect you, or even if they are, then you should think about taking steps to protect yourself and your privacy. In this article are some suggestions for ways that you might protect yourself and your personal details.

 

Passwords

Passwords should be secure even if you don't have a problem with unwanted contact.  These days everything has a password, not just your online accounts, and if someone knows or can guess your passwords then they can cause you a lot of trouble.  This could be a stalker, a bully, or an online predator who just wants to steal your identity.  Passwords may need to be changed to prevent a person who knows you well from accessing you accounts.

Password managers can be setup on computers using a single secure password to help in accessing multiple sites that will have a range of highly secure passwords that are randomly generated. If you decide to change passwords or want to create a secure password for a password manager, base your password on a completely different word or set of characters. You can increase the security of the word by making changes or making up new words. For example, you can start with the word donut which is not considered to be a strong password. When you break the word down you end up with Dough Nut. Dough is used to make bread and Nuts fit on bolts so you end up with Breadbolts which is a much more secure password due to its length, and that it is not very easy for a computer or person to guess.

One common problem that people find when their passwords are revealed in one system is that people are able to login using the same combination to multiple sites. You can prevent this by having rules that make each password unique. You can use letters from the name of the website to improve the strength of the password. For example you can use the second and third letters from imdb of www.imdb.com in reverse order to add to your password to make it unique to that website. You can also use the total number of letters in the name of  the website to determine what you special characters or numbers, imdb has 4 letters so we can use ‘$’ and www.imdb.com has 12 characters so we can flip the numbers and use the number 21. Our current password for imdb would be Breadboltsdm$21 which is a very secure password. You can then come up with a phrase or instruction to come up with a way to remember that rule.

The phrase can for this password be “count 23 donuts backwards” to remember that:

  • the end of the password is the number of characters in the website address (URL) backwards
  • we then count the characters in the part between the www. and .com and use the matching symbol above the number next
  • that we use the second and third characters in the name of the page is the reverse order
  • and we use the word donut as the start of our password to end up with Breadbolts

Writing down this phrase is a lot more secure than writing down password, and doesn’t have the same problem where you have to remember if you swapped the ‘a’ for an ‘@’ or the ‘t’ for a ‘7’.

As you can see, password rules can be far more secure than passwords alone and you will have a tough time forgetting to count all those donuts.

 

 

Devices

If you are taking devices that the perpetrator ever had access to and you are worried about spying software, take a backup of any important information and then reset the device as per the manufacturer’s instructions or ask for assistance at a local computer store. All you have to say is that you would like to back the device up and have Windows reinstalled on your you other device reset to factory settings.

GPS and other tracking devices are now easily available and hard to find in your car, handbag, your child's toys or your own devices.  Computer spyware also allows someone to track not only where you are but what you are doing on your devices.  If you are living with the person who is tracking you then they may be able to figure out what you were doing through physically accessing devices and looking through the history.  If you suspect that someone is harassing, stalking or monitoring you using one of this devices then sadly you are probably right.  Get a trusted friend who understands technology to help you purge your devices, or contact one of services available for victims of harrassment (like 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732) and ask for their help.

 

Phone Contact

 

Your service provider can be made aware of unwanted contact, and they can investigate this activity.  They may not be able to prevent unwanted contact, but you could ask them to block numbers from that call.

Home Phone

It is easy to change your home phone number.  Call or visit your service provider and ask them for a new phone number on your home phone service.  You could also ask for a silent phone number, and then your phone number would be blocked so that when you make an outgoing call the person receiving the call cannot tell what your new number is and pass it along.  There are usually charges associated with this and you should ask your provider about those charges.

Pre-paid Mobile:

If is often best to obtain a new sim card for your phone and a new phone number.

Pre-paid sim cards are available for as low as $2 without credit, however the Starter Packs come with credit included which means that they start functioning earlier.

If you switch numbers, you should also disable Caller ID on your phone to protect your number.  To do this on most models of phones, go to Settings -> Call Settings -> Additional Settings -> Caller ID  and then select Disable or Off.  Contact your service provider if you require assistance, and they should be able to tell you what to enter into your phone to turn off outgoing Caller ID.

Billed Mobile:

Post Paid Mobile numbers are tied to contracts so getting a completely new mobile plan might not be the best solution.  Most mobile contracts are two years and have an exit fee.

Talk to your service provider about providing details such as contract expiry dates and exit fees.  Also talk to your service provider about blocking an incoming number, or providing you with a new number, but on the same contract.

You should also ask your phone provider to set up an intercept service, so that they flag that number and the phone call goes to the service provider not your phone, and they can keep a log of the number of calls.

 

 

Mobile Handsets

You may be able to block calls from your mobile phone hand set.

iPhone

Find Contact -> Press the i button -> Press Block Contact down towards the bottom

Android

Select Contact -> Press the Menu button -> Press Block

  • Or Settings -> Call Settings -> Call Rejections -> Call Reject List
  • If this is unavailable install the App ‘Mr. Number’ or ‘Call Control - Call Blocker’ available in the Play Store. Mr Number can also block SMS messages and unknown numbers if this is also a concern

Other options

  • Modern phones can select custom ringtones for contacts. This can be done on most phones by selecting the contact, pressing the Options or settings button and pressing the Select Ringtone Option
  • If the unwanted calls are coming up as “Withheld Number” it is difficult to block these without an application or phone settings

o   Set your default ringtone as none and set custom ringtones to contacts or groups that contacts are assigned to.

o   If this is not effective, purchase a $2 Sim Card and use this for incoming calls only. An old phone can be used as the incoming phone and the current billed service can still be used for all chargeable usage.

 

Social Media

Social media is complex and it is difficult to create an entirely new account, or to exclude someone from your details if you have mutual friends.  The solicitors at Coode & Corry simply don't share personal information (like children's details) on Facebook not because of any particular stalker, but because social media is not a safe place to share truly private or personal information.

You should consider taking a break from social media altogether at least for a while.  You can block other users, often on their profile page, or modify your privacy settings, but this is not as effective as simply not sharing information in the first place.

There are other measures you can take.  Facebook has applications in particular that may send you notifications if someone tries to contact you. Facebook acknowledges that applications are able to bypass certain block settings. If you received multiple unwanted friend requests from unusual accounts, you can set your profile to not allow incoming friend requests.

 

 

Email

It is very easy to create a new email account, and email everybody in your address book (except this person, or a friend who might pass on the new account).  Avoid using personal information in your new email address.  You can also flag single email accounts as spam, or add them to a blocked user list.

 

Email rules can be used to establish filtering on your email. If you create a new account, you can set up specific rules that will forward emails from companies that may send you a bill or other notifications.

If you are receiving unwanted emails at your place of work, feel free to contact your IT department and talk to them about what they can do to help you. They can assist in filtering emails from particular addresses, email services and emails containing obscene language. You can also ask the IT team to create you a new email account that is harder to guess but still contains information that can let people you trust know who you are.

 

Fake identity

If you need to create a fake identify online this is fairly simple using websites like http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/  which can create an array of fake or unusable data online.  You might for instance use this fake name generator to get a name, and then open an email account using that name, but email your friends from that account indicating that it is indeed you.  That way, this person cannot simply search for email accounts with that name.

 

 

Protect your service provider accounts

For all service providers like phone accounts but also electricity, internet, bank accounts, and other service providers, you should contact the service provider to put a warning on the account about unwanted interference (for instance someone of the same gender as you might call, claiming to be you, and disconnect your power).

 

If you have accounts in joint names with the other person you will have to close all of those accounts and open new accounts.  You should warn the new service provider that someone, including someone with a similar or identical name, may contact them claiming to be you or your spouse.  If you have sufficient authority on the account you may be able to take the account into a sole name but usually this needs to be done by both of you, so you should open a new account with a new service provider and use that account instead.

If the account is in your name but you have authorised the other person as a contact then naturally you need to remove that authorisation.  Ask them to place an obvious note on the account so that anyone dealing with the account might be aware of the issue.  This is not always successful but it may prevent a problem, like unwanted cancellation, and the associated charges.

 

Get legal advice

You should speak with one of the solicitors at Coode & Corry about your situation, they will be able to talk to you about what you can do and whether there are any legal avenues available to help stop the unwanted contact.

Our first appointment is free, if we can't help you we can tell you at this first appointment, if we can help you then we can tell you want is involved and how much that will cost.

 

 

More Information

For more information regarding domestic violence generally or our firm specifically, click on the link to the left titled "More information on Domestic Violence" to read some more of our articles.