Stalking by Proxy

“Could you tell me if he got a new job?”

“Her birthday was at the bowling alley this year. Her friend let me know.”

“Do you think you could tell me where they live?”

In the realm of online interactions, the term “proxy stalking” has gained prominence, highlighting a digital threat that operates in the shadows of virtual spaces. January is Stalking Awareness Month, and it is important to highlight some of the lesser-known tactics abusers may use to perpetrate harm on their victims.

Proxy stalking refers to the act of using intermediaries or third parties to observe, monitor, or gather information about a person. Unlike direct stalking, where the perpetrator engages directly with the target, proxy stalking introduces a layer of separation, making it challenging for the victim to identify the source of surveillance.

The proxy stalker typically employs friends, acquaintances, or even hired individuals to keep tabs on the target as a sort of third-party observer. These intermediaries might follow the victim’s online activities, report back to the stalker, or even gather information offline. On occasion, these parties may be perpetuating harassment without any active encouragement from the stalker. Sometimes, friends and families may be under the illusion that the person they are proxy stalking for is the victim and they are doing them a service.

One of the more commonly recognized forms of stalking by proxy is the commissioning of private investigators to locate the victim and to monitor their movements. The engagement of private detective services allows the stalker indirect access to expensive and sophisticated means of surveillance.

Advanced surveillance tools, such as spyware, keyloggers, and other monitoring software, may be utilized to track the victim’s online interactions. This digital layer enhances the effectiveness of proxy stalking by providing real-time data.

Recognizing Signs of Proxy Stalking

Identifying proxy stalking can be challenging due to the indirect nature of the threat. However, certain signs may indicate that you are being observed through intermediaries:

  • Unexplained Information: If you come across personal details or information that you haven’t shared publicly, and it’s being referenced by acquaintances or strangers.
  • Unusual Interference in Relationships: If someone close to you suddenly exhibits a heightened interest in your relationships, regularly asks about your interactions, or tries to influence your connections.
  • Overly Detailed Knowledge: Friends or acquaintances who seem to possess an unusually detailed knowledge of your daily activities, routines, or plans, despite not having direct communication with you.
  • Intrusive Questions from Strangers: If strangers approach you with detailed knowledge about your life, activities, or relationships, it’s a red flag. This may suggest that someone is sharing your personal information without your consent.
  • Sudden Changes in Social Dynamics: If you notice abrupt shifts in your social circles, with certain individuals becoming unusually close or influential, it could be a result of proxy stalking. Pay attention to changes in your relationships and the dynamics within your friend groups.
  • Unwanted Involvement in Disputes: If you find yourself consistently caught up in disputes or conflicts that seem unrelated to your actions, it’s possible that someone is orchestrating these situations through proxy stalking.
  • Evidence of Offline Surveillance: Physical evidence, such as seeing the same unfamiliar person frequently in your vicinity or noticing signs of unauthorized access to your personal spaces, may indicate offline surveillance orchestrated through proxies.
  • Manipulative Messages or Interventions: If you receive messages or interventions from acquaintances that seem manipulative or coercive, encouraging specific actions or decisions, it could be a tactic employed by proxy stalkers.
  • Abnormal Online Monitoring: An increased awareness of your online activities by people who shouldn’t have such knowledge may indicate the involvement of proxy stalkers.
  • Pattern of Unwanted Attention: Recognize patterns of unwanted attention from different individuals. Take notice if you consistently experience unwarranted interest in your life from people who should not have access to certain information.
  • Feeling Constantly Watched or Monitored: Trust your instincts. If you consistently feel like you are being watched or monitored, even if you can’t pinpoint specific instances, it’s essential to take such feelings seriously and investigate further.

Protecting Yourself from Proxy Stalking

Secure Your Online Presence:

  • Regularly review and update privacy settings on social media platforms. Set your privacy settings to “friends only” or “private.”
  • Be cautious about accepting friend requests from unfamiliar individuals.
  • Limit the visibility of personal information to a trusted circle.

Educate Your Circle:

  • Inform friends and acquaintances about the importance of privacy and the potential risks of proxy stalking.
  • Encourage them to be cautious about sharing your personal information, online activities, or whereabouts with others.

Monitor Your Digital Footprint:

  • Regularly check for any unusual online activities or unfamiliar connections.
  • Be vigilant about the permissions granted to apps and review the list of devices accessing your accounts.

Employ Security Measures:

  • Use strong, unique passwords for your online accounts.
  • Enable two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security.

Stay Informed about Digital Threats:

  • Keep yourself updated on emerging digital threats and privacy concerns.
  • Educate yourself on the latest cybersecurity practices to protect against various forms of online surveillance. Be aware of products like Air Tags or location tracking devices/apps you may have.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Proxy stalking poses a unique set of challenges in the digital landscape, where the lines between online and offline interactions are increasingly blurred. By understanding the nature of this threat and implementing proactive measures, individuals can fortify their defenses against proxy stalking. Staying vigilant, securing online spaces, and fostering awareness within your digital circle are crucial steps in safeguarding your privacy in an interconnected world.

If you need any additional information, have a question, or a concern, feel free to reach out to Options at our 24-hour toll-free helpline 800-794-4624. You can also reach an advocate via text by texting HOPE to 847411 or click 24-Hour Chat with Options.

Written by Anniston Weber