In legal terms, stalking refers to obsessive and unwanted attention or surveillance that is directed toward a person or group of people. In the 1990s, the United States was one of the first countries to make stalking illegal, and since then a few types of stalking crimes have been recognized. The three major types of stalking include online stalking, phone stalking, and physical stalking.
Cyberstalking, or online stalking, occurs when an individual uses the Internet or some other kind of technology to stalk or otherwise harass victims. Although it is a relatively new concept, incidents of cyberstalking have prompted new laws that specifically outlaw online stalking. In the United States, California was one of the first states to outlaw cyberstalking.
Some online stalkers create a website, blog, or online profile in their victim's name. With this, they can post false information or make fake threats to a third party. In one example of this, two Florida teenagers were arrested and charged with aggravated stalking after creating a fake profile on a popular social networking site under a classmate's name, where they posted lewd photos and messages.
The Internet is a wealth of information for stalkers. With it, they can monitor an unsuspecting victim's activity several ways, especially through social networking sites. In addition to their full names, addresses, and birth dates, many users also post information such as email addresses, phone numbers, or even where they will be and what they are doing at any given moment. This information can be used in a variety of ways.
Online stalking crimes often lead to phone stalking or physical stalking. Individuals who engage in phone stalking often call their victims at all hours of the night and day. Sometimes these calls can be threatening or sexually explicit, while other times they are just annoying to the victim.
Experts agree that the best method of dealing with these calls is to ignore them. Victims of phone stalking crimes are typically advised against answering the calls, but to record when they come in. It is also suggested that they report the harassing phone calls to their phone companies, as well as local law enforcement officials. Many police departments can't do much, however, until some sort of physical contact has been made.
Physical stalking crimes are believed to be the scariest and most dangerous of the types of stalking crimes. Individuals involved in this type of stalking will often follow their victims, sometimes even showing up at their homes or places of business. Although the stalker may start by simply watching the victim or possibly leaving gifts for her, this type of behavior can possibly escalate into more dangerous behavior. It is not uncommon for these types of stalkers to vandalize a victim's home or car, or even physically attack the victim.