Dealing With Online Harassment The Right Way In 2022

Considering just how much time most of us spend online each day—whether it’s at work, at home or on a mobile device—it’s not entirely surprising that more than 4 in 10 Americans have experienced some form of online harassment.

If you haven’t been the victim of online harassment yet, chances are you will be at some point. Read on to learn how to identify harmful online behavior and what you can do to fight back.

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Types of Online Harassment

Online harassment can take many forms, ranging from merely cruel to outright criminal.

Cyberbullying and Trolling

Cyberbullying and trolling are commonly encountered on social media sites. Here, so-called “friends,” followers, or strangers feel emboldened to make rude or abusive comments on your posts or photos. Online forums and comment sections are rife with “trolls”. These trolls intentionally make incendiary or degrading comments to provoke a reaction from others. While not illegal in most cases, this behavior can be emotionally harmful to victims.

Online Impersonation

Online impersonation is when someone uses your name, photo, or other identifying information without your consent. This is done in order to cause you personal, professional, or financial harm.

Perpetrators often use these fake accounts or other personal information to conduct “phishing” schemes. They then contact the victim’s friends and family in an effort to secure personal data, passwords, or even money. Online impersonation and phishing can be criminally prosecuted if the victim’s reputation is damaged or someone is defrauded.

Catfishing

In this internet scam made famous by the movie and TV show of the same name, a person creates a fake online identity in order to pursue a relationship—typically of a romantic nature—with a specific target. If someone you’re communicating with online seems evasive or too good to be true, you might be the target of a catfisher.

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is using the internet to harass, threaten or intimidate someone, and it is a federal crime. Cyberstalking may occur through a variety of digital channels. These can include social media, email, instant messaging, and chat rooms. Cyberstalkers can be prosecuted based on anti-stalking, harassment, and slander laws.

For more on this: Avoiding Cyberstalking When Navigating The Internet

Doxing/Doxxing

Doxxing is the process of revealing a person’s private information, including their phone number, home address, and place of employment, to encourage others to harass that person and/or their family members. If this personal data comes via public records, doxing may not be a crime. However, if it is obtained through hacking someone’s personal email or other online accounts, it may be considered illegal.

For more on this: How To Avoid Doxing In Your Online Life

Swatting

In an extension of doxing, swatting occurs when an individual’s personal information is used to make an emergency police report with the hope of having an armed SWAT team sent to the victim’s house.

This illegal tactic puts the victim at risk of accidentally being harmed by law enforcement and can be extremely intimidating.

For more on this: What is Swatting? How To Avoid Malicious, Dangerous Raids

Responding to Online Harassment

The most effective response to online harassment depends largely on the specific circumstances. However, the tips below are excellent rules of thumb for any situation involving harmful online behavior.

Never Feed The Trolls

Online bullies and trolls feed off responses to their bad behavior. It’s one thing to engage in a heated discussion of the issues with someone. But, when their rhetoric turns to personal attacks or hate speech, it’s best to disengage. You’ll save yourself time and frustration. As an added bonus, the troll will find somewhere else to spread negativity.

Adjust Your Social Settings

Make your social media accounts private and be careful who you accept as a friend. If it’s someone to whom you have no real-world connection, they may be attempting to infiltrate your account for nefarious purposes. You can also block anyone who harasses you on social media.

Minimize Your Online Exposure

For a modest annual fee, you can subscribe to a service like Removaly. Services such as ours will take the time to remove your information from online data brokerage sites.

If you prefer to do it yourself, you can go to the individual sites of all the major data brokers and opt out of their systems.

Keep DEtailed REcords

If you are being harassed online, take screenshots of the messages, images, or other unwanted behavior. Document any reports you file with the site operator or other authorities. A complete record of the situation is crucial if you choose to pursue legal action against the perpetrator.

Report The Harassment

If ignoring the cyberbully or cyberstalker doesn’t stop their behavior, report them to the site operator for violating their terms of service and request that the site remove the harmful content. When necessary, continue to contact the site managers via phone, email or even social media until you get a response.

If you feel physically threatened or you suspect fraud or other illegal activity, report your experience to your local law enforcement agency right away. You can also reach out to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a division of the FBI that handles online harassment and related activity.

Protect Your Personal Data

Let Removaly keep a watchful eye on your personally identifiable information with automated, real-time data removal.

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