Thursday, 15 August 2013

Dealing with persistent web based harassment in the UK

Even in 2013 reporting internet crime to the UK police force is a hit and miss exercise, and is certainly more miss unless you are a celebrity, or report the crime in the right way.  Here is my advice on reporting continued (persistent) web based harassment.

If you are aged 16 and under, and are suffering from online harassment, you must tell your parents, teacher or legal guardian.

1. Identify your harasser
If you are subjected to weeks and months of persistent anonymous harassment over the web, 9 times out of 10, it will be by someone you know. You can work out who it is likely to be, by examining the nature of the harassment;  the type of language used, the subjects they harass you about, the websites they harass you on, and your own recent history in disagreeing and falling out with people, these are all clues to who your harasser is. They tend to be people who likely will bare a grudge against you; ex-boyfriends are very typical. In some circumstances once you have identified your harasser, you can confront them and but an end to the harassment.  In some cases ending the attacker's online anonymity, and bringing the issue into the real world is an effective end game.

2. Build an Evidence Journal
The next advice is very simple to do yet important, keep a journal of all the harassment and bully that happens to you.  Log dates and times, take screenshots of any messages you receive and is post about you. This journal not only provides clues in identifying your harasser, but it can be used down the line in police computer forensics investigations, and in court.

3. Secure you PCs, Laptops, Mobile Phones and Web accounts
Securing your online accounts and computing devices are vital to preventing your harasser from accessing your accounts, and then using them to cause significant personal distress. You particularly need to prevent your harasser from accessing any of your email and social media accounts, so use best practice password management, strong unique passwords, and where possible use strong authentication methods, such as Google’s Step two authenticationSee elsewhere in my blog and website for more detailed advice on this. 

4. Reporting the Crime to UK Police

If the online harassment is persistent, report it to your local police, but do NOT report it as a cybercrime, internet crime or e-crime, report it as harassment. Then explain what has happened, who you think it is, and then present the evidence you have collected in your journal.  If you report as an e-crime, you are more likely to be ignored by police, but if you are female and report as harassment by an ex-boyfriend, it goes without saying the police will be far interested in helping you. Finally if the police are of no help, check out some of the websites listed below for further advice, but my advice is to keep going back to the police with your evidence journal, especially if the harassment continues and is causing you distress.

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