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

'I Didn't Know It Could Happen to Me'

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 Moore's own story -- the episode that changed her life and launched her crusade against cyberstalking.

I was doing regular errands when I got the first sign that I wasn't really free of a bad relationship – and in fact, I would be further controlled and humiliated. But at that first moment, I didn't know at the time how devastating or lengthy my ordeal would be; I just knew something had gone very, very wrong.

Standing at the main gas station in our small town, I swiped my credit card and put my hand on the pump handle, ready to lift it up when the payment went through. Nothing happened. I tried again. This time a note flashed on the electronic board, "Please see cashier." I ignored the message and tried another credit card instead. Crap. Same message: "Please see cashier."

'What the Hell Was Going On?'

My 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 my recent change of address? I'd left an abusive relationship a few short weeks before. It didn't occur to me to connect my problem to this escape. It must be a mistake. I knew that I had money in my bank account, so whatever was happening with the credit cards could be dealt with later.

The ATM card didn't work either. Worse yet, it said there were "insufficient funds." I leaned back on the gas pump feeling faint, as if all the blood in my body had stopped moving. Where was my money? What the hell was going on?

When I finally got home and checked into it, I realized that someone had closed all my credit cards, transferred money out of my bank account, and all the credit card companies and banks were insisting I 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 by a Cyberstalker

I still didn't put together that I 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, my medical insurance was cut off, my credit rating plummeted, and process servers came after me on false claims.

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

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

A New Career Path

Finally, four years later, I'm solvent and successful – a writer, cybercrime expert and victim advocate. But it wasn't easy to get here.

It took thousands of hours of attention to the problem to repair my 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 and braving the outside world again to meet people who believed in me, believed my story and could connect me to others who could help.

I fought back and now I help other victims – women and abuse survivors, but also men and women of all ages, ethnicities, economic status and education.

Cyberstalkers don't discriminate.

Not only did I triumph over my cyberstalker, but I also learned a great deal from him. Unwittingly, he gave me the tools to build a new career path that I'm pursuing with passion and conviction. Although my story has a happy ending, I wouldn't wish the hell of that journey to anybody.

I hope with all my heart that you or your loved ones are never the target of a cyberstalker. But sadly, the odds are that some of you will be.

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