Cyberstalking Victim Warns of Tech Dangers

- HOT SPRINGS, AR - Our dependence on phones, computers and tablets continues growing but could it be detrimental? An Arkansas woman dealing with a cyberstalker is now using her story to warn people about how someone could use your devices against you.

Vickie Newton is calm on the surface but reveals underneath she's struggling with a seven-year cycle of cyber harassment.

"I have gone into hiding I've had strange weird moments where I'm nervous about everything," she says.

And times where it seemed odd messages and emails were everywhere.

"When I first moved home, I received e-mails numbering 3-400 a day. The email would tell me, I see you have a chair in front of the door," she describes.

She says someone was using her computer and cell phone to scare her.

"I've had dinner with friends and the conversation happening in the living room or kitchen I then receive a text message about it," says Newton.

It pushed the 20-year television news veteran to leave St. Louis, seeking solace in Arkansas, but her stalker continued following her in cyberspace.

"I think if you are being cyberstalked you may have a hard time wrapping your mind around it in the beginning because it is so unsettling to know someone is listening and watching you and bold enough to taunt you with it," Newton says.

Her case sounds hard to believe but UALR Criminal Justice professor Jeff Walker says it happens more than most would think.

"It's more common than it used to be. People are getting better abilities," says Jeff Walker.

They also have better tools available on websites for spies.

"They can start using the ability to listen into your home, follow you at greater distances. They may put a system on your car, follow you and track where you've been," he explains.

Walker says if you have a cell phone, computer or home phone beware. While it's rare, a voyeur can tap your lines, listen in, and possibly use whatever they find to torment you.

In her research, doctoral assistant Kristen Sobba has noted the progression from cyberbullying, a growing problem among teens, to cyberstalking among adults.

"Those taking such lengths to cyberstalk you will probably take the same lengths to physically stalk you because they are putting so much time and energy into it," Sobba says.

The National Center for Victims of Crimes reports roughly 3.4 million people are stalked each year and one in four are victims of cyberstalking or electronic monitoring.

As Newton has discovered, there isn't much the average person can do to stop it.

"I have probably bought 20 phones or more over the past seven years. I've had home security systems installed," she says.

She says the FBI won't pursue a case. A Garland County Sheriff's Office investigator tells KARK limited resources prevented him from finding enough evidence to track down her stalker.

Back in the public eye with a new job anchoring Soul of the South television, she hired a private investigator. He checks her attic and surveillance system but he can't track e-mail transmissions. For Newton, just knowing someone is on the case does bring her peace of mind.

"The only thing that propels me through the day is this will end, the person will be caught and I will be okay," says Newton.

Until then, Newton remains secure in her faith and hopeful for the future.

Walker and Sobba listed the following tips to protect yourself if you feel vulnerable: 
  • Remember to document every message all contact with a suspected stalker
  • Change your passwords regularly
  • Invest in strong virus protection for all of your devices.
Check out this link for more resources.

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