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"I Will Ruin Him" – How it feels to be stalked (chronicle.com)
147 points by azakai on Jan 27, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments

Unfortunately this article is not an exaggeration.

We deal with stalkers on a regular basis, cam sites and stalking seem to go hand-in-hand. If you're ever in the position of being stalked please do the following:

- never ever respond to the stalker

- save each and every message

- pre-emptively alert everybody in your surroundings that they might contact, explain everything and make sure they also never respond, and ask them to alert you if they are contacted.

- formally alert law enforcement

- forward each and every message received, posting made and so on to law enforcement (yes, that can be a nuisance, and yes it can be embarrassing but if you want them to sooner or later take action they have to be aware of how bad it really is).

Over the years this has dealt with the large majority of cases. The few that are not amendable (for instance, because you don't know who the stalker is!) are far more serious and will need a lot more work to resolve.

The most important thing to remember is that stalkers feed on your attention and your pain, the more feedback they get from you and your environment the longer it will go on.

If this happens to you (it has happened to me...) then I wish you much good luck and I hope that it will end sooner rather than later.

One tactic that we have deployed that is quite effective is to counter stalk the stalkers and to expose them publicly.

Stalkers are usually not first time offenders and likely will stalk again in the future. It helps to have them easily googlable.

"never ever respond" implies that you already know they're a stalker -- but by that point you've surely already had some correspondence with them, unless you never reply to anyone. So how do you tell when it actually crosses the line?

Good point. If a stalker starts out as 'nice' (and boy, can they be nice) like in the story above then you must feel that there is a point where they go from normal to 'creepy' (hard to define). If you've been in regular communication with them until that point then it will be impossible to avoid some of the fall-out, but the rules still hold. It's a war of attrition, and unless your local law enforcement takes this sort of thing serious (and oh, the joys of the internet, you can now stalk someone half the planet away with proxies, anonymous remailers and so on to hide who you are) it can go on for years.

Not all stalkers are created equal. Some will fold after the slightest hint of official repercussions, others will continue no matter what.

Whatever happens it'll leave you changed in how you behave online and in real life.

Would it be a good idea to 'bounce' the emails back - i.e. send a fake "message was undeliverable" email status to the sender. But still keep the messages. That way they think that no one is reading the email and may give up, or at least try to find another way to contact you.

It's worse because it's another form of attention, which riles them up. In my case, once I blocked a stalker on facebook, he started sending stuff to my work email.

If the stalker writes from the same adress, you can make a filter for that and bounce this automatically back + save the message, without reading them.

A bounce is a response. Don't bounce.

An automated response is entirely different. The the bad part about responding personally is showing it affects you, however minutely. An automated response that it was not received takes away that crucial motivation quite effectively.

An automated response is information. It says 'I won't see this'. It shows you cared enough to set up an bouncer. Which in turn says that you were annoyed. Which is a pay-off. So it will result in a redirection of effort, not in reduced motivation.

I thought we were talking about in the long run. Setting up a bouncer is something that would take you a few minutes at most. I'm by no means an expert in this matter, so I can only pretend to be a stalker, and see how it would make me feel. If I thought the person received my emails, which I'd be certain of if I already knew the person, and already had conversed with the person through the email, "no response" would to me mean "he is ignoring me, but still receiving my messages". If I got a bounced back message I would think "shit, he blocked me. I'd better send from a different email address". I'm not sure which gets the most pay-off, I guess it depends on the stalker, but redirection effort means they have to do some effort. If you collect evidence of effort to stalk you, for little or no effort on your own, I'm sure that doesn't hurt either in proving your case.

"If I got a bounced back message I would think "shit, he blocked me. I'd better send from a different email address". I'm not sure which gets the most pay-off, I guess it depends on the stalker, but redirection effort means they have to do some effort."

You're talking about someone who's extremely mentally ill and ungrounded in reality. I'd be worried about them putting more effort in.

I've had peripheral contact with stalking on multiple occasions. I have two useful tips.

The first one is that stalkers try to convince themselves that the object of their desire would love them back if they only had a chance. When they learn otherwise, desire can easily flip to hatred, then to attempts to destroy a life. Therefore if you are being stalked and can avoid letting the stalker know how you feel about it, do that. You can see that one in play in this case where she pursued him for years, without the nasty behavior, until she realized that he didn't love her. Then she turned vindictive.

The second tip is that if you're going to stalk someone, don't stalk a psychiatrist. It is very, very hard for anyone other than a psychiatrist to get someone committed to an institution until after the stalker has committed a conventional crime. However if you're stalking a psychiatrist, the psychiatrist can, as a professional psychiatrist, evaluate you and decide to institutionalize you. And whatever institution you go to - which is generally associated with said psychiatrist - is likely to support the psychiatrist in that evaluation.

As a corollary to your awesome "don't stalk a psychiatrist" tip — if you're going to stalk someone, don't stalk a federal agent!

A close friend was stalked for years by someone who sent increasingly threatening e-mails to him, his ex-girlfriend, and her family with varying From: lines.

Local police in three different states were pretty sure my friend was the culprit because he knew a lot about computers. He got a restraining order and a pretty harsh interrogation; under the stress, he ended up failing out of university. The stalker got away with this stuff for years and never got close to getting caught.

The bad guy's mistake was to start sending e-mail with a "From:" line of a Department of Homeland Security agent. Turns out the FBI knows their stuff and does not tolerate this nonsense, and they unravelled the situation within about a week.

It also turns out that "impersonating a federal agent" is much worse than ordinary stalking — the bad guy is serving a 15-year prison sentence.

That's an awesome finish to that story.

Anonymous stalking has always struck me as self-defeating. You want attention drawn to your existence, but don't want to admit who you are? How is that useful?

"Anonymous stalking has always struck me as self-defeating. You want attention drawn to your existence, but don't want to admit who you are? How is that useful?"

Because it could be anyone, knowing specifically who is harassing you leads you to understand the limits of someone's power (and giving you avenues of law enforcement escalation) versus driving someone batty with suspicion and mistrust.

I've experienced that flip. It's scary. I should have never rejected the stalker.

I've been told, and believe, that the only course of action for the stalked is to COMPLETELY IGNORE the stalker, until something threatening and legally actionable happens.

Anything else you do, positive or negative, simply adds fuel to the fire.

It really sucks and makes you feel helpless, but the legal system simply doesn't offer any refuge for stalking victims unless it passes a certain threat threshold.

After about a year of ignoring him, my stalker got bored. But I still fear his return. I got a single tweet from him about 6months ago that made me worry for a bit, but it was just 1 single tweet and didn't continue.

Agree, completely ignore a stalker, BUT save a record of every contact made. If you have a trusted third party, or two, periodically give them copies of everything, so that if things escalate they can vouch for you and the ongoing nature of the harassment.


Edit: Thinking about it more, I retract the "ignore comment", and replace it with "use your judgement", as the best response will vary with the situation. I stand by the "keep a record" comment.

In the UK, stalking is now specifically a criminal offence (since late last year):


That law does seem like it would be effective, but it also seems hugely broad. Just reading it it seems like you can accuse anyone of "stalking" even after contacting you a couple of times...

I'm not saying such laws aren't good, I'm just saying that the way that particular one is written means that it couple potentially overly criminalise a lot of situations.

It wouldn't be the first time that something has been over-criminalized, but you can read what the Home Office is saying about the new measures here:


Note that because this was introduced as a "patch" to a 1997 act, it's very hard to understand what the law now actually says. If only they'd use version control ...

This is in line with advice that other people that I know have received.

I am glad that it seems to have worked out for you.

>"...avoid letting the stalker know how you feel about it..."

No, this is not always the right answer. What you're saying is basically, "lead the stalker on."

How to handle the stalker depends on what kind of mental illness (if any) they are afflicted with. Depending on what's going on in the stalker's head, they may often fly off the handle, get angry, but then (fairly quickly) find a new target to focus their energy on. With many people, the longer you draw the rejection out, the worse it gets.

Here's some better advice: get in contact with a good lawyer and a good psychologist. Frankly, it's a little irresponsible for you to be handing out advice like this.

Is this based on your experience?

Contacting professionals seems like sound advice regardless of his personal experience.

I presume that that comment was directed at the, "...it's a little irresponsible..." bit. Not the contacting professionals part.

I am all for contacting professionals. Stalking is potentially a life or death matter. You don't want to go with random advice from random people on the internet.

That said, if your professionals offer advice similar to what professionals in the past have told people that I know, this will be the basic message. Once someone has formed an extreme enough obsession that it becomes stalking, there is no easy way to let them down. Nobody can predict who will flip out, or what manner that will take. The legal system does not offer effective protection against people who have not actually broken the law yet.

Therefore people that I know who have talked to professionals in the field have been told that if the stalker has not yet turned negative, cut off contact, and be careful to avoid confronting the stalker with how unwelcome the attention is.

"Depending on what's going on in the stalker's head, they may often fly off the handle, get angry, but then (fairly quickly) find a new target to focus their energy on. With many people, the longer you draw the rejection out, the worse it gets."

And your advocacy of confrontation is also highly irresponsible. Take your own advice.

I don't know whether you're just unnecessarily petty or if you genuinely failed to understand, but I'll assume that I wasn't clear enough.

I never advocated confrontation - not by a long shot. I said that being direct may sometimes be necessary. I thought it was pretty clear that the only advice I gave is to contact a professional.

I'm not being petty, if your only advice is to contact a professional, discussing the positives and negatives of contact runs contrary to and distracts from your intentions.

There's a difference between ignoring and leading someone on.

Scorched earth, like Saddam's army torching Kuwaiti oil fields as they retreated in desert storm. If they can't have it, no one can, I guess.

This happened to my bicycle. A thief tried to break the lock, didn't succeed, and instead decided to kick in the wheels and knife the saddle. That left me with €100 damage, almost the cost of the bicycle (a simple city bicycle).

"Therefore if you are being stalked and can avoid letting the stalker know how you feel about it, do that."

I suppose it does keep it from progressing to the vindictive stages, but they'll still continue at that stage for years, possibly even decades. People that fixated don't just "get bored", especially after sunk cost.

If you're stalked, is it possible to ask the opinion of psychiatrists before starting legal procedures in order to give more credit to your claims ?

No psychiatrist is going to institutionalize SOMEONE ELSE because of YOUR testimony.

No legal procedures exist to put down a stalker until after an actual crime has been committed. Really, really, REALLY liking someone is not a crime.

Almost true. In most cases of stalking, you're right, because there is no evidence of mental illness.

To your point--no psychiatrist will institutionalize someone on your testimony, but a judge might. Depending on the state, a judge can send a person on a 72-hour court order to a psychiatric facility on the basis of an affidavit from a concerned party. If you can convince the judge, which in my state is apparently not difficult, the person wins a psychiatric admission.

I would receive advice from someone who has dealt with these issues before even thinking about such a course of advice.

"Lock em up!" feels like a great idea. Until you wonder what happens between them hearing about it, and showing up in court. Or after they are released from the psychiatric admission.

This is a plan that can backfire..badly.

> No legal procedures exist to put down a stalker until after an actual crime has been committed.

That's not really true without jurisdiction filter on the assertion: there are jurisdictions in which harassment itself is a crime (in all circumstances, not just for protected categories or e.g. in the workplace). For instance, the UK with the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Psychiatrists can have more kinds of opinions than 'institutionalise this person'.

The only workable solution I've found: maintain absolute transparency with everyone in your various networks, and never, ever, ever respond to the animal in any way. It literally takes years for them to break off from the hunt, and there is no protection from their predation as long as they can still smell your blood. Your attention fuels their hatred and their psychosis.

Notifying their family or friends is counterproductive - they have been programmed to treat their predator as a victim and will attack you as well, multiplying the threat.

A mentally ill person - even one who is criminally so - is still a person, and not "the animal". Maybe you're just trying to hammer home the predator/hunt thing, but it still sounds really wrong to me. Whatever bad thing happened to you, don't let it corrupt your own sense of humanity.

It's easy to say that from the sidelines. I think it's a small price to pay for maintaining your sanity while its under siege by a mentally ill person. So long as you're not harming anybody, who cares how you frame your aggressor?

Framing them in an appropriate way is significant. Framing them as a mentally ill person can help you cope with what's going on, because it helps you understand what's happening. And while it's not nice, humans deal much better with things that they think they understand (cf: origins of religions)

Framing them as a cunning predator that can strike mysteriously and who knows where the next attack vector is, well, that's just feeding the paranoia - and playing into their hands.

Besides, if your goal is to react as encouraged above and remain as dispassionate as possible, framing them as mentally ill helps put you in a mood of pity (or even compassion), whereas framing them as an animal suggests that they must have battle done to them.

EDIT: Not to mention just the basic humanity of seeing humans as people who can have problems, instead of simply writing off people wholesale if they take a wrong turn.

"Framing them as a cunning predator that can strike mysteriously and who knows where the next attack vector is, well, that's just feeding the paranoia - and playing into their hands."

But it's true, in a way. You can't really assume much about the limits of a person who's willing to take their own life down to assume control over yours.

It's way too late for that, but you are completely correct. Upvote, good person.

Sociopaths don't really think like the rest of society. "The Animal" may sound like more of an exaggeration, but they are most certainly more lizard-brain than rational.

Aren't we all animals?

That did go through my head when I was writing. I'd say that there's different ways to use that word, and that usage felt somehow different to me than the one that you're referring to.

Haha I know, I was just being a smartass ;)

I kept thinking if her emails were as batshit crazy as the author states, why not just post all of them online. Buy a domain and make a big public display of what a whackjob this person is. Allow her to publicly hang herself.

I suspect, as suggested in the comments, some or all of this is possibly fabricated for book sales? Otherwise, many of his responses don't make much sense. I think most would very quickly, and correctly, attempt to sue for defamation.

Name and shame seems like a good tactic, but you must understand that the animal is incapable of feeling shame or remorse - they have no reputation to uphold. There is only predator and prey. Their world literally does not extend beyond you, their food source. You are their obsession, and your existence (and suffering!) gives them their daily meaning.

Well, the article mentioned her attempts at being a published author? I would argue that reputation and financial ruin might put a crimp in those plans.

Obviously, I don't suggest this as a first response... maybe the dream of being an author was the one thing still anchoring her to reality? I would seek legal council on the best method of just making her go the hell away (harassment charges/restraining order).

If she persisted to be a thorn in my side, or I had no legal recourse to the harassment, then yes, attempt to ruin her. What other choice do you have? Just allow her to chip away at you for all of eternity?

"I would argue that reputation and financial ruin might put a crimp in those plans."

Delusions have never stopped a sociopath before.

That reminds me of the birther movement in some ways.

> I think most would very quickly, and correctly, attempt to sue for defamation.

I agree. In particular I'd also go after republishers, such as Amazon, to have the various public ones removed.

I don't think this is a good idea.

When you have a stalker, ruining his or her reputation doesn't help. It can easily be spun around to make you look like the bad guy. Some stalkers are obviously crazy and you should notify the police. Others are adept at making it look like you're doing bad things. They won't be able to prove anything, obviously, but they can muddy the waters and make your life hell.

Female-on-male stalking tends to come from the extremes of the popularity spectrum, not the middle of the curve, and those two extremes tend to produce different patterns of stalking. If she's obviously crazy and weird, then she's also unpopular. Her reputation is already damaged, but she doesn't care. Her situation is asymmetric warfare. I wouldn't even call it "warfare" at that point. It's just angry destruction. The bad news is that she's liable to become violent. The good news is that she has no credibility so, while it might be annoying to hear a crazy person using your name, nothing she says will stick.

The less common form tends to come from women who are high on the social spectrum. They tend not to be physically dangerous (they have decades of experience at hiding their craziness, and they know that physical intrusion will blow their credibility) but it's much more socially dangerous, because when they set out to ruin a man's reputation, they often succeed.

What the OP experienced appears to be a mix of those two, enabled by the largeness and credibility sparsity of a large society (e.g. the Internet).

Notifying their family or friends is counterproductive - they have been programmed to treat their predator as a victim and will attack you as well, multiplying the threat.

A large percentage of stalkers believe they are being stalked by their target. They interpret every interaction (or lack thereof) with this person, no matter how mundane, in the context of this illusory and perverse relationship existing in the stalker's mind.

One terrifying thing is that, when a man has a well-liked female stalker (and in many places, a woman just has to be attractive to be well-liked) she often succeeds in destroying his reputation. There has to be a social power differential (teacher / student) or the man is likely to come out ruined, because of the behaviors OP describes.

> A large percentage of stalkers believe they are being stalked by their target.

A large percentage of stalkers believe they themselves are being stalked because they are, but by someone other than their target. They don't know who's stalking them, and are reciprocating, but towards a different target they themselves have chosen.

There's a difference in personality between stalkers who keep themselves well hidden, and those who are unafraid to reveal themselves.

> stalking tends to come from the extremes of the popularity spectrum, not the middle of the curve, and those two extremes tend to produce different patterns of stalking.

In your other comment on this submission, you described both types of stalker in the context of female-on-male stalking, but it applies more generally in society. You called the form that comes from those high on the social spectrum as "less common", but it's simply _more hidden_. Stalking is a many-layered social structure, with the sociopathic types at the top pulling the strings of the schizophrenic types at the bottom, often with one or two layers of other people in between. The sociopathic types who keep themselves hidden watch others in order to change win-win relationships into win-lose relationships. The more recognizable schizophrenic types react to these win-lose relationships by changing them into lose-lose relationships.

If we talk about how to handle the schizophrenic type of stalker without talking about the sociopathic type, we're simply targeting a symptom without looking at the cause. Behind every wacko hellbent on ruining their prey is a scheming business manager protecting their business interests at all costs, or a listening functionary doing what it takes to get their kids an education in a Western country.

Sorry, but that's bullshit. Most stalkers are people who simply can't accept a breakup in a previously existing romantic relationship.

There may be cases of this multi-layered string-pulling you describe, but they are a rare exception.

"A large percentage of stalkers believe they themselves are being stalked because they are, but by someone other than their target. They don't know who's stalking them, and are reciprocating, but towards a different target they themselves have chosen."

Pull the other one. This is just too ridiculous to take seriously.

I battled with a mentally ill stalker for years in a petty online revenge game that started as a joke on an IRC channel and a gamer forum when I was 14yrs old, and ended up being decided by the courts as both of us eventually resorted to highly illegal activities to screw each other over.

We went from crapflooding and email bombing each other to him constantly phoning and writing everybody I knew or worked for and my school in an attempt to screw me over through the years. Every girlfriend I had he tried to fake pics of me 'cheating' on her and spammed their social accounts and email/phone. In turn I stupidly escalated and baited him through side channel attacking his box, wiping his drive countless times, hacking his blog countless times, and destroying his credit score through fraud. This goes on for a few years each personal attack gaining in pwnstastic levels of revenge. He even had badly packaged illegal drugs sent to me from overseas hoping customs would intercept it and bust me but somehow they arrived safely and for weeks I wondered how I ended up with a bunch of drugs in the mail. I then countered by further driving his credit score into the grave to the point collection agencies were after him and his family, and was able to wipe all his sites faster than he could put them back up again.

At one point during this insanity when I was 17, he started filing fake police reports to have me purposely picked up on a Friday to serve time all weekend before I could see a judge and have the bogus charges thrown out start of business day Monday. For revenge I did something incredibly stupid with the 911 system and he landed in the state pen for almost 3 months.

When I was about to turn 18, after years of us going back and forth escalating our stupidity I came down with a sudden case of ethics, plead out to meddling with 911 so he would get released, plead out to fraud to reinstate his credit score, paid out compensation and received probation in family court forbidding me from touching a computer for 2 years. He also plead out to filing false police reports, fraud and harassment, was sentenced to time served, compensation and 4yrs probation in adult court. Both of us forbidden to touch a computer and go after each other. That was 8 years ago.

It should have been over but he's still to this day trying to track me down from half way across the globe as both of us don't use real identities anywhere on the internet anymore and our real names turn up a black hole. Once in awhile I'll meet up with some old friends or employers when I come back to my old city for holidays and they'll tell me about how this sweaty-toothed madman keeps calling looking for me. I will also from time to time see various articles or comments written in my name which is him trying to lure me out of obscurity to resume our epic battle of the ages.

I can't help but wonder whether this would've been near impossible if you had not given out your personal details.

I've been using the Internet, IRC etc since I was about 8. Not until I was about 21 did I ever use my real name, address etc.

You state the guy is "mentally ill", but can't the same be said of you if you're retaliating? It's just the same thing, really!

No, he found out who I was when an idiot friend of mine posted some pics to a gamer forum of us getting wasted and doing stupid 14yr old kid things like skateboarding inside a house party, and that friend had a traceable identity said crazy guy was able to trace to eventually find out who I was.

True we were both complete idiots for doing this but the guy definitely has a tinge of paranoia and insanity as to this day he's still phoning around looking for me. He's also 20yrs older. My lame antics can be excused for being underage, him not so much

I don't give out my personal details on the Internet. I try very hard to make sure that any accounts I have aren't connected to each other or to my real identity. (With the exception of financial accounts, I think Bad Things will happen if you don't use your real name/address/SSN for Paypal and the like.)

I always wonder whether I'm just strange -- I don't really have a good reason to hide like this, I just like my privacy -- but as soon as I saw this story, it reassured me that I'm doing the right thing.

This sounds like it would make a great book or movie.

It's scary to know you can send someone to jail for 3 month, but at the same time knowing how you did it would be quite interesting.

Wouldn't make a good movie. Lol IRC troll warzzZ

Because he was never able to defend his xp winbox against me getting inside his home lan by constantly falling for obvious side channel attacks (I'd pretend to be a girl interested in him, link him to my fake personal blog which was actually full of IE exploits back when they went unpatched for months) I had a lot of time to poke around his home lan and eventually I discovered he was stealing his neighbours wifi for some of the harassment against me so it wouldn't trace back to him.

This neighbour had a VNC port open, which at the time was exploitable so I started it up and enabled my xp backdoor on that system too as another attack vector. The original plan was to start doing some MITM attacks I was just learning about he wouldn't notice while thinking he was untraceable through stolen wifi, but then I got stupid and impatient. Note: I was no master hacker, the exploits I had were merely downloaded off shady forums like shadowcrew. I was an idiot with just enough knowledge to be dangerous at the time.

When he changed ISPs under a new name so I couldn't track him I just logged into his neighbours network where I left the door open and waited for him to connect to the stolen wifi. Re-owned his fresh system with a new permanent backdoor, set up a whole toolbox of spyware, and proceeded to do a bunch of illegal shit under his name like using his card which I had gleaned from a keylogger to buy illegal sex tourist vacations from very obvious fake FBI sting sites so somebody would start monitoring him (i have no idea if they did, I assume they did). Interesting note, when I stole his card, he was using it on his fresh install he thought was secure to pay for a data report on me from one of those information clearing house sites.

The emergency system attack was just using the same VNC exploit. Somebody on shadowcrew discovered they were using it and was daring other hackers to break in which pretty much guaranteed an instant bust if you were stupid enough to do so. This was E911 with admins using printout logs and checking them daily not a restaurant to fleece credit card numbers from where nobody will notice you for a year or so. We all made our own temporary vpns and used disposable sim card dongles and wireless hacking but still you'd be playing with fire screwing with E911.

Naturally this was perfect for what I needed and when I assumed the feds had started watching this guy I accepted the 911 bounty, logged into his system, connected through his neighbors wifi leaving a huge trail of identifying cookie crumbs to follow back to him like opening up his hotmail and yahoo accounts which would've all been logged when they looked at his neighbour for the breach, and proceeded to absolutely trash around their network trying to get somebody to notice and yanked some database tables.

Then I left a nice package of evidence for the cops to find in his system that was poorly hidden, cleaned all traces of me being on his neighbours system, cleaned all traces of me being in his network, and for good measure went online using his browser to attempt to sell the info on every carding forum there was to attract even more authority attention.

When I heard on the same game channel where the troll battle began that the reason he disappeared for almost 3 months was because he was in jail, I gloated my victory like a fool to my hacker friends on IRC who told me from their own experience he was probably looking at being transferred to federal and doing serious time in the double digits, which I could not let happen in all good conscience, even if I absolutely hated this guy so turned myself in figuring since I was underage I could probably slide on my stupidity by transparently admitting to everything and hoping for the best. Thankfully I received the Cosmo of UGnazi crew sentence and not the Kevin Mitnic solitary confinement revenge sentence.

Now when I google my name I just see the crazy baiter troll battleship nonsense he's written over the decade in my name with obvious references he knows I would understand to let me know it's him and to pick up where we left off. There's a hundred posts the latest one was Sep 2012.

Did you perchance enjoy playing Uplink?

Also, kudos for clearing his name of the stuff you did on his behalf. That shows some real strength of character, IMO.

This is an amazing post and worthy of a publishing to 2600 Hacker Quarterly.

Yeah, I was wondering how he did that too. Maybe he spoofed a caller ID number with the other guy's number, calling 911 and telling them something involving horrific criminal intentions.

Twenty first century version of Catch Me If You Can.


I wonder if he reads HN?

Upvoted for originality

You're an idiot.

... And then she began again.

James Lasdun is a writer who ... This essay is adapted from his new book, Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked, to be published next month by ...

I can't help but feel that I've been had.

If you take a look at his Wikipedia page, you will find the kind of defacement he discusses in the article:


"He has no integrity. He sells students' fiction to half-assed writers for personal profit and political reasons and makes it obvious because he's a psychotic who hates women and loves money. He is a rapist and sadist."

Now, while there's always the slim chance that he could have defaced his own page back in 2008 just to make it support a fake memoir about being stalked, it sounds a lot more likely that the stalking was real.

This is a promotional excerpt from his book, designed to entice you to buy it. Yes, he leaves out the ending in order to get you to buy the book. That doesn't mean that the book is a work of fiction.

Essay != fiction. Magazines publish excerpts from books that are about to be published, or have recently been published. In addition, writers try to sell their work, whether it's fiction or non-fiction.

I have to admit I had the same feeling. In the book that inspired a movie based on a true story, Nareen is James Lasdun writing a memoir while stalking a student named Nareen.

My feelings exactly.

It can be surprisingly hard to fight this. As the author notes, even if the ramblings of the stalker are so obviously crazy, it still requires people to evaluate whether you could have done said actions and whether it is a risk to associate with you regardless.

My wife got dragged into a situation a while ago. She merely commented on a blog article about a man who had travelled to another country, got a woman pregnant, and then when the woman got sick and needed treatment, claimed it was a scam. In his mind it grew into a giant conspiracy. Anyone who didn't take his side was involved in this conspiracy, including the hospital, local business people, even the British Embassy was in on it apparently. And then my wife, for commenting on an article. I worked out that if you divided the hospital bill by the number of people he alleged were involved, they'd all make about $3 each.

The local community rallied behind the woman who was disadvantaged and could barely afford the bill. They tracked her down, obtained proof from the hospital, took photos and posted them (with permission) thinking that would clear up the allegations. He started to look for evidence in every blog post, image, comment and forum posting. Where you look for a pattern, given enough data, you start to find them. He tweaked his conspiracy theory to fit the patterns he found, offering them up as evidence. My wife's name ended up on a "website of scammers" he created. He set up free websites on many services, created videos which he cross posted to every video sharing site (surprisingly effective), set up blogs dedicated to his ramblings.

Eventually the community he was targeting with his hate had enough. Being computer literate they beat him at his own game, set up a domain that matched his real name, used masses of SEO and inbound links from networks of blogs they ran, and listed what he'd done on the website. Now whenever someone Googles his name or something related, they can see exactly what he's done. Since he worked as a freelance professional with schools, theatres and companies, this really was not good for him, and after that he seemed to vanish. I presume this was only effective because his own reputation could be used as leverage. If they have nothing to lose it would be a pretty bad situation, as the author has experienced.

I have another anecdote about a friend who tried to raise money in his community for victims of a disaster, only to be character assassinated by a fake facebook account. He stopped raising money and cut himself off from the community which is a real loss.

I'm surprised the article didn't address the possibility that there was some mental illness involved. I assume the woman was in her early or mid 20's, an age where schizophrenia can manifest.

My guess as well, and it's mentioned in the comments in the link. I suppose the author didn't want to speculate on her motives and so didn't mention this.

Basically, as Nasreen had discovered, you can pretend to be anyone you want when you forward an article, and she had decided to pretend to be my old program director.

Does the general public really not realise that this is true of any email?

Perhaps there's a need for some kind of campaign to remind the population at large that the From: address on an email is no more reliable than the sender address typed on the back of an envelope.

Yeah, the general public really does not realize this. Or, even if they do, it's frequently not the first thing that they think of when getting an email from someone they know. You generally assume that the person is who you think it is, even if you know, intellectually, that there's a possibility someone could be impersonating them. Do you stop and think, for every email that you read, "hmm, maybe someone could have forged this"? No, you generally read it as if the person in the "from" address were writing it.

Now, you might wind up being skeptical if it sounds ludicrously different from how someone normally sounds. But when it's someone you only know tangentially in a professional setting, and the stalker tones it down a bit and doesn't sound too outrageous, the stalker might be able to slip plenty of stuff by without you realizing; or even if you do realize it's not them, it may cloud your perceptions.

Even when people can consciously identify a lie, it can change their perceptions later.

I'd be surprised if most people know that. On the other hand, I do get spam from all manner of famous people who don't really seem like the type to be selling v1agra online... seems like people might connect the dots.

The double-edged sword of the effective spam filters on Gmail/Hotmail/YahooMail is that people don't see these too often anymore?

A coworker of mine met a guy from a dating site, had a lousy date at a TGIF/Applebees/etc's, decided not to pursue and ended up with a serious stalker issue.

- Hundreds of texts over the next few weeks

- She didn't provide her address to him, yet he ended up tracking her down over the next few weeks

- He would drive 60 miles or so every morning before driving another 40 miles to start his 6am shift so that he could tape or nail a 10 or 20 page hand written letter to her door frame

- She would routinely leave work to find him asleep in his car in front of her house

- In a fit of rage over being ignored, he drove into and smashed down her garage door causing thousands of dollars of damage to her home

- Several arrests later, his behavior hadn't changed

She finally had to get a restraining order and have him arrested for violating it, the police contacted his place of employment and he was fired (he held a position with serious privacy and security restrictions, which is probably how he tracked her down) and to this day, a couple years later, she still has to look out her window before heading out to work to see if he's there.

All of this over a single 90 minute meeting over food to discuss shared interests.

> A deluge of e-mails poured into my inbox over the next few months. I deleted most without reading them.

What's best practice here? Set up filters to route them into a special folder? You never have to read them, but you've kept them in case you need to go to the police and courts?

You have to check them periodically to make sure the situation isn't escalating. For example, if they start threatening physical violence against you, you now have something to use to take legal action. And it's good to know if someone is planning to show up on your doorstep.

In my case, once the stalker started hitting my work email, my employer could step in and filter & review the messages for me (yeah, that was actually someone's job).

> You have to check them periodically to make sure the situation isn't escalating. For example, if they start threatening physical violence against you, you now have something to use to take legal action.

I guess for your own sanity you should get a trusted third-party (like a friend) to check those messages for you.

More or less. The more evidence of all communication of theirs and yours, the more useful it is as either plaintiff or defendant in court.

I rememebr when I was about 13 years old my friends and I used ICQ to chat online. One of my friends had an acquaintance who thought it was amusing to 'hack' their chat client. It wasn't particularly complicated or malicious, but she would do it persistently every night and this made it impossible to chat. We knew who it was because they would quite openly brag about it. But we also knew who their dialup ISP was. So we faked an email written by the ISP telling this person to stop what they were doing or legal action would be taken etc. We just changed the 'from' address in the email from a throaway hotmail account. They could have easily worked out that the email was fake, but we figured they would be so mortified that they wouldn't get that far. We were right. The problem stopped immediately and never happened again.

I can't help but think that this category of solution would be useful here, although there is a fine ethical line to tread...

Also a legal line, since this is probably identity theft.

This article was riveting. It's rare that I read such a long piece, but it's really well written. Particularly when it occurs that disturbingly, I have no better way to check the veracity of the words here than anyone else would of the words written by "Nasreen". Reminds me of Ghost in the Shell.

I recall when I was in Wikipedia that perverted-justice.org (or PeeJ for short) accused me of supporting paedophiles, and a whole bunch more. Luckily, I had been against the "Childlove Movement" article and wanted it changed significantly, and when they saw that they published an apology.

Stalking can ruin reputations - it was a hell of a scary thing.

What resonated with me was the sinking feeling you get when you're defending yourself to a third party, thinking or knowing that the stalker has already put in place some counter-evidence to your rebuttal.

It's important to develop a strong emotional instinct of conviction based on your own beliefs rather than the natural method of holding convictions viz. based on what is popular knowledge at that time.

FYI here's a link to the upcoming book detailing his experience ...


If such a story doesn't sell you on the ideas of rigor and corroboration, then there's probably no hope for you. Gripping, true or not, and a reminder that we often accept as truth far more than we should.

I think somebody should get James Lasdun on the horn and tell him to start using GPG on all of his emails....just sayin'.

I used to think being a professor was a boring and safe profession. Boy was I wrong! I hope his student can receive the appropriate mental counseling to live a more normal and fulfilling life.

You never know what craziness is commonly found in the student population until it starts showing up in your office hours. Remember, if you deal with thousands of somewhat random people, you will have had to deal with dozens of seriously crazy people.

If anyone here is concerned that someone in their life might be a danger to them, I would encourage them to read 'The Gift of Fear' by Gavin de Becker: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0440226198

This book has everything you need to know to deal with these sorts of situations: http://www.amazon.com/Gift-Fear-Gavin-Becker/dp/0440226198

Fascinating book, in which Gavin De Becker (the author) reiterates the advice of commenters here, to deny the stalker any form of feedback whatsoever. It also highlights how, as in the Lasdun case, it can be a completely banal and initially harmless social transaction that can spiral out of control.

How does this relate to startups, software dev or anything remotely related to what HN stands for?

From the guidelines: "On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity."

It appears many people in this thread find this interesting (particularly in the ways technology interacts with stalking) so it is on topic.

Then again:

Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon. Videos of pratfalls or disasters, or cute animal pictures. If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic.

I find this article to be in the "crime without any interesting new perspective" category, since the phenomenon of Internet stalking is old news by now, even for mainstream media.

Then again, lots of politics and crime stories seem to be making their way to the front page nowadays and there's no way to vote against them except to flag. So maybe I should just hope we at least stay clear of sports articles, or switch news sources ;).

I was thinking about that as I was posting that, but I thought this was generating an in-depth discussion beyond "crime without a new perspective" so it was okay with me.

It touches on issues of anonymity and reputation on on the internet, as well as highlighting how non-obvious the flaws are in our identity systems to people who are non-technical.

I think it's reasonably on topic.

Given that:

1) Startups (some anyway) tend to get a lot of media attention

2) Startups have fragile reputations while they are making a name for themselves

3) Startups tend to have more personal relationships with their customers than more established companies

It follows that startup personalities will encounter stalkers of various sorts. Articles about a potential consequence of this, discussions of how to deal with it and so on seem as on topic as "tips for personal productivity", "how to deal with office politics", "Prosecutorial overzealousness", "copyright" and other recurring themes here.

Further, speaking a bit more generally: People here are pretty prone to living huge amounts of their lives online. One of the dark sides of the internet is that it has been a great stalking enabler, and those of us who spend a lot of time online in forums, etc, can be at greater risk for general muck-raking, since the volume of stuff known about us "on the internet" is larger.

It's useful advice if you discuss any topic or are a part of any community on the internet. There are a lot of people on the internet who are not capable of interacting in "proper" society,. Sometimes this provides a useful outlet to allow socialization, sometimes providing the opportunity to hurt others in ways that they might not do in person. These people are rare, but with enough of an audience, common. I helped run a fairly large (~200k member) private community forum and encountered these persons regularly, friends who did the same and had their personal information online for their freelance careers were not so lucky, threats were made, etc.

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