I Was a Victim of Cyberstalking: One Woman's Story

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This is fourth in a series of articles on women and cyberstalking written by cyberstalking expert Alexis A. Moore, founder of the national advocacy group Survivors in Action. Below is the story of the experience that changed Alexis's life and launched her crusade against cyberstalking.

A day or regular errands provided Alexis with the first sign that she wasn't really free of a bad relationship and in fact, she was about to be further controlled and humiliated. At that first moment, though, she didn't know at the time how devastating or lengthy her ordeal would be; she just knew something had gone very, very wrong.

The First Indication of Trouble

Standing at the main gas station in her small hometown, she swiped her credit card and put her hand on the pump handle, ready to lift it up when the payment went through. Nothing happened, so she tried again. This time a note flashed on the electronic board, "Please see cashier." At first, she ignored the message and tried another credit card instead. She got the same message: "Please see cashier."

She remembers that her heart was pounding, the way it does when you know you might be in trouble but you don't want to admit it yet. Could it have something to do with a recent change of address? She had left an abusive relationship a few short weeks before, but it didn't occur to her to connect the problem with her card to this escape. It must be a mistake. She knew that she had money in her bank account, so whatever was happening with the credit cards could be dealt with later.

However, the ATM card didn't work either and, worse yet, it said there were "insufficient funds." Alexis recalls that she leaned back on the gas pump feeling faint as if all the blood in her body had stopped moving. Where was her money? What the hell was going on?

Bank Fraud

When Alexis finally got home and checked into it, she found that someone had closed all of her credit cards and transferred her money out of her bank account. All the credit card companies and banks were insisting she had done it.

"Alexis, you faxed us yourself with the request," the faceless credit card people said to me, implying in their tone, and occasionally in words, "Are you that stupid?"

Targeted for Cyberstalking

Alexis still didn't put together that she was being targeted by someone with malicious intent until other distressing things happened. Over the course of the next few months—in addition to the canceled credit cards and stolen money—her medical insurance was cut off, her credit rating plummeted, and process servers came after her on false claims.

There was one person with enough information on her and knowledge of how to work the system to do this: her ex. Alexis had a worst-case scenario cyberstalker—a man who knew all her passwords and addresses, her birthdate, her mother's maiden name, and all the personal stuff that makes up our technological identity. He was determined to use all of his knowledge against her and he became the worst kind of cyberstalker—persistent, well-informed and malicious.

Alexis lost the ability to work. She lost my money and, even worse, her good credit history, which meant she couldn't move, get an apartment, get a car, get a loan, or find a job. She lost friends and the support of family. Finally, after three solid years of torture and abuse, there was even a point when she lost the will to live.

A New Career Path

Finally, four years later, Alexis is solvent and successful—a writer, cybercrime expert, and victim advocate. But it wasn't easy to get there, it took thousands of hours of attention to the problem to repair her credit and stop his attacks, including having to make some extreme financial decisions. It also took filing endless reports to the police, to the sheriff, the FBI, and the district attorney's office. As a victim of cyber crimes, it also too the courage to face the outside world again and meet people who believed in her and could connect her to others who could help.

Alexis fought back and now she helps other victims, most often women and abuse survivors, but also men and women of all ages, ethnicities, economic status, and education. One thing Alexis has learned in her work is that cyberstalkers don't discriminate.

Not only did Alexis triumph over her cyberstalker, but she also learned a great deal from him. Unwittingly, he gave me the tools to build a new career path that she's pursuing with passion and conviction. Although her story has a happy ending, she reports that she wouldn't wish the hell of that journey on anybody. "I hope with all my heart that you or your loved ones are never targeted by a cyberstalker," says Alexis. "But sadly, the odds are that some of you will be."