Nearly half (41%) of Americans have experienced harassment online—a 6% increase since 2014. An even higher proportion (66%) have been a witness to online harassment, according to a 2017 Pew study.
Whether you’re meeting people on dating apps, selling secondhand items on Craigslist, or Instagram famous, you may be putting yourself at risk of cyberstalking by sharing your personal information online.
Though not everyone experiences cyberstalking personally, the problem is common, with 94% reporting they are aware of the issue. Only 5% of people consider online harassment to not be a problem, meaning there’s a large majority of people who would like this trend to change.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 4 stalking victims also report some form of cyberstalking. That means that stalking in the real world transfers into cyberstalking 25% of the time.
On an individual level, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself from becoming a target.
Take action to protect your privacy online
The best course of action against cyberstalking is to be proactive. Protect your identity and information online to prevent a cyberstalker from getting ahold of your information in the first place.
There are some legal avenues to prosecute online harassment, but few cases actually make it to court. Over three years, 2.5 million cyberstalking cases were reported, but only 10 were prosecuted by the Justice Department. It’s important to protect your information from falling into the wrong hands, so you don’t end up with an online harasser.
Cyberstalking and online harassment appear to have become a part of our culture, and without significant change, are not going away. Proactive protection of your identity and personal information is the best way to avoid online harassment and cyberstalking. One of the best steps you can take is to limit the amount of personal information you share online, whether that’s on your social media channels or an online dating profile.
When you do share personal information, try to use email addresses and phone numbers that are disposable or changeable, and not attached to vital personal or bank accounts. That way, if someone decides to abuse the privilege of having your personal information, you have the power to discard that information without disrupting your personal life.
With the majority of email systems, you can create a new email address within minutes for free. If you’re making a dating profile, selling something, or creating an online brand, using an email that’s separate from your personal account can give you flexibility and protection from online harassment.
You can also create a second phone number with Burner. Instead of giving out your personal phone number—which is difficult to change—give out a Burner number. A Burner phone number can be burned anytime it’s compromised, and setting up an account is simple and inexpensive.
It’s also important to manage and be aware of what privacy settings you use on social media channels. To protect the personal information you choose to share on social media from being used to target you, make sure that your privacy settings are closed to strangers and people you don’t know. This won’t entirely protect you, but it will make it more difficult for people you don’t know from accessing your information.
If you choose to share your information publicly, be aware of what you’re exposing yourself to.
How Burner protects your privacy
As simple as it sounds, harassers can be deterred through methods such as a second phone number.
Burner can help protect your privacy in multiple ways. By giving out a Burner number instead of your personal digits, you have the power to get rid of a cyberstalker simply by deleting the number.
Burner is an app in your smartphone that’s simple to use. There’s no need to get a second device when you use Burner.
When someone calls or texts your Burner number, the call/text is rerouted to your phone without exposing your main phone number.
Take the Burner Challenge to see just how much of your personal info is already out there. Or do the research yourself by searching your name and phone number on Google and seeing how much you can pull up on your own.
For those who haven’t experienced cyberstalking personally, it might seem like something that you can just brush off. It might even seem like online harassment isn’t as serious as harassment that happens in person. However, those who have experienced it know how upsetting and draining it can be, and their fear is very real.
As we spend more and more of our lives online, being able to protect your personal information and rid yourself of a cyberstalker easily is very important. For just $5 a month with Burner, you can protect your personal information.