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by Ray Carlson

Q: I have received emails from someone whose address I do not recognize. The emails attack me for political views and my social activities and indicate that I will be punished. Only my friends would know this information. What should I do?

A: This is a timely question since January was designated as National Stalking Awareness Month. You are describing online stalking. The attacks could come from a variety of sources besides friends. Unfortunately, there are websites which will provide information about people for a low fee including information posted on Facebook, Amazon wish lists, pictures on Flickr, etc. All the purchaser needs to provide is a name and city and/or email address. Typically, the person that does this is angry about something often having nothing to do with the person they attack.

The first response is to save the messages, but do not confront the stalker. In addition, be careful about what personal information you provide on any websites.
Go to which provides a lot of information, allows you to document what is happening and will provide live advice from a volunteer. They will suggest when to contact the police. Anonymous behavior including electronic messages that seriously alarms or annoys a person is illegal in Arizona. They will suggest whether to send a message to the Internet Service Provider asking them to tell the sender to desist.

The harasser is trying to create stress, and your best response is to develop a feeling of maintaining some control.

Published: Courier 1/16/11 - Page 5C