I think this guy is stalking me

On Internet dating sites he keeps showing up in different guises; it's getting creepy and scary

Topics: Since You Asked, Internet dating, Stalkers, dating, Craigslist,

I think this guy is stalking me (Credit: Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I live in a medium-size metropolitan area and sometimes use dating sites and Craigslist to meet men for casual dating/hookups. Several years ago I was duped by a man who misrepresented himself by using 20-year-old photos. Which I discovered by meeting him in public.

Fast-forward a year or so and I again went to meet someone I had met online and lo and behold, he was in the establishment, which he quickly exited. Of course, no one matched the photo of the person I thought I was meeting. He followed me to my destination and then continued to send me messages, which I ignored. There was another incident as well, where he was in the same establishment as I was and again, he sent me messages. Fast-forward again until present day … every site I go on, he contacts me, always using fake photos and different email addresses. I know this because I use Google image search and the photos always end up matching a scam artist or various profiles that contain a certain phrase or names the predator has used in the past. I experience a lot of anxiety now, while attempting to meet men online, always wondering if it is the wolf in disguise, yet again.

I have come to the conclusion that it is not specifically ME he is seeking, but preying on many other women who live in my city. Apologies for the long letter, but I would like to figure out a way to warn other women so they do not fall for his deception. Alternately, I fantasize about some type of revenge … I’ve been able to ascertain his real name and address. The question is, what do I do with it? Send him an anonymous letter, letting him know that someone is on to him and tell him to back off and quit preying on women? Do I post a warning on Craigslist warning women about him? I am not about to do anything illegal, I just want him to stop preying on women! Please advise!!

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Dear Stalked,

First, refrain from Internet dating for a period of three months. That will clear some space for you to concentrate on this issue. During that time, contact the other women this man has harassed. Develop a profile. Then clarify your options by presenting the specifics of the case to an expert in stalking behavior.

Do not just live in fear. I urge you to take action. Protect yourself. Take it seriously.

Learn as much as you can.  

I wish I could give you specific directions but those must come from someone who has been given the details and is an expert. You must find that expert on your own.

Meanwhile, stay off the Internet dating sites. Change your behavior. Stay in touch with the other women he has harassed. If he continues to contact you, but not them, that may be a sign that he has singled you out and will be relevant to your case. Present this information to your expert for further advice.

It is likely that because of your unpleasant experiences, Internet dating is no longer the fun, casual activity it once was anyway. So refrain from it. Take inventory of the contacts you have already made through Internet dating and cultivate them. See if you can nurture some good, solid friendships among the people you have already gotten to know. If you find that you cannot stay off the Internet dating sites, then consult a counselor or therapist about techniques you might use to alter your behavior.

Also, read what you can about human behavior to get a general idea of what’s driving people when they post self-descriptions. My very cursory investigation (that’s what I call it when I look on Wikipedia!) seems to show that lies are a big part of Internet dating behavior, and this in turn is linked to the general practice of impression management in our daily affairs. So it will be important to determine where on the scale of dishonesty this man’s deceit lies, and whether he has a background of violence or drug use or other indicators. In other words, all this information gathering is about determining the level of threat he represents. I can’t assess that because I am neither an expert nor in possession of the facts. You have to do that. If you find you cannot do that, then get help to understand what is stopping you from taking action.

The main thing is: Take action about this man and communicate with others. One hopes that he will turn out to be a misguided but essentially harmless nuisance. One also hopes that after a period of time you will be able to again use Internet dating as a way to interact with people. When you are ready to return to Internet dating, don’t use your old methods. Research such sites rigorously. Look for the ones that are most trusted, that do background checks, that screen people out. Live your life with more circumspection. The world is a dangerous place, full of weirdos!

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