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How to protect yourself from a cyberstalker

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Reporter Megan Cassidy gives tips on how to do a background check for free in Arizona.

One in six women and one in 19 men have been stalked, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On Thursday, a man accused of fatally shooting five people and injuring two others at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. 

Court papers show that Jarrad Ramos filed a defamation suit against the newspaper in 2012. But a judge threw out the lawsuit and said Ramos “fails to come close to alleging a case of defamation.” A Maryland appeals court further concluded that everything printed in the July 31, 2011 newspaper story about Ramos appeared to be true.

According to the court case, Ramos had pleaded guilty on July 26, 2011, in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, on a charge of criminal harassment and got a 90-day suspended jail sentence. Five days later, the Capital ran a story by staff writer Eric Thomas Hartley under the headline “Jarrod wants to be your friend.”

The story described a harrowing situation of a woman who was continually harassed by Ramos after he contacted her on Facebook.

June 29: Jarrod Ramos, suspect in Capital Gazette shooting rampage, charged with 5 counts of murder

June 28: Accused Capital Gazette shooter had sued paper, held grudge

In May, an Arizona woman was arrested after she was accused of stalking and threatening a man.

Jacqueline Ades, 31, met the man online last year. According to court documents, Ades is suspected of sending the man 65,000 text messages, entering his home and going to his workplace. 

Two-thirds of stalkers will pursue their victims at least once per week using more than one method, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime

When meeting a person whom you’ve met online, the organization suggests meeting in a public place and not sharing information that you want to keep private such as addresses, place of work, dates of birth, etc. 

Here are five other ways to help protect yourself. 

Contact law enforcement

The National Center for Victims of Crime says it is important to trust your instincts. If you believe you have a stalker, take it seriously and contact law enforcement. 

Court documents said the man Ades is accused of stalking called law enforcement several times, including when he saw the woman in his bathroom on surveillance footage. 

June 28: Capital Gazette shooting victims: ‘Gifted’ assistant editor, mother of four, new hire among those dead

June 28: 5 killed in ‘targeted attack’ on Capital Gazette newspaper, police say

Stalkers are dangerous and have unpredictable behaviors, said Elaina Roberts, director of Strategic Initiatives at the victims of crime center.

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“Generally, when a person is being stalked, they often don’t know where their stalker will be or what they will do,” said Roberts. 

Also, online stalking, or cyberstalking, should be taken seriously because it can spill over into the physical world, Roberts said. 

Create a safety plan

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The National Center for Victims of Crime suggests creating a safety plan with a professional in order to prevent harm.

The plan can include a list of safe places, buying another phone that has a number only given out to trusted people, and varying your routine. 

Protection orders can help, but may not be for everyone. 

“This may not be safe for all victims and may put them in greater danger,” Roberts said. 

If a victim sees the stalker every where they go, law enforcement can sweep a car or check phones for location tracking devices and software.

Tell your community

According to court documents, Andes visited the man’s business. Police said she told officers she was the man’s wife. 

“Relying on trusted friends and family is important for victims of stalking to help keep victims safer and also reduce the isolation and feelings of desperation that stalking victims may experience,” stated the organization.  

June 4: Sexual harassment: What it looks like online and what you can do about it

May 11: Arizona woman accused of sending 65,000 text messages after first date with man she met online

The organization suggests telling security guards, friends at work and school, giving copies of protective orders to schools or day-care centers, and talking with your children. 

Some victims may not tell family and friends about their stalker.

Roberts said some people may feel embarrassed, guilty, scared, vulnerable, or may not want to put anyone else in danger. 

If a victim does tell their community, it is important to show support and to not judge the victim. 

“Remember, this is not the victim’s fault.” 

Document everything

The National Center for Victims of Crime suggests keeping track of all the times a stalker has made contact, as well as when law enforcement was involved. 

“Having the stalking log or protection order to show law enforcement will aid the officer in seeing the pattern of behavior or course of conduct which criminal stalking statutes require,” Roberts said. 

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Documents like photographs, text messages, emails, letters and time logs can help law enforcement. 

Don’t communicate with the stalker

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 46 percent of stalking victims receive at least one unwanted contact per week. 

May 3: Facebook fires engineer in possible online stalking case involving Tinder

Jan. 1: He showed up at my house after I ‘met’ him on a dating app. I was freaked out

“Stalkers are extremely persistent and have a high recidivism rate,” Roberts said. “They usually don’t stop the behavior even when victims communicate a desire for the behavior to stop. Any communication with the stalker can be taken as incentive to continue the behavior because the victim is paying attention to them.” 

A victim may choose to communicate with the stalker, though it’s not recommended.

Roberts said some victims feel safer texting their stalker to discuss child custody or support payments. 

Contributing: Mike James and Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY. Follow Lauren Castle on Twitter: @lauren_castle

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