February 1, 2013

Working to Halt Online Abuse | Volunteer Organization Fighting Online Harassment

whoaGuest post submitted by Working to Halt Online Abuse

Think you’re smart?  Chances are pretty good that right now you are being watched in some way – your children, your email, your bank account, your workout routine, your shopping habits, your favorite dinner spots – and you won’t have any idea, until it’s too late.  You leave an electronic footprint on nearly everything you do each day.   From bullying to identity theft to murder; Midwest teens to Wall Street financiers to Hollywood celebrities – we are all at risk to be a victim of cybercrime!

WHOA (Working to Halt Online Abuse), a volunteer organization founded in 1997 to fight online harassment through education of the general public, education of law enforcement personnel, and empowerment of victims, has just released its preliminary stats from 2012 on online harassment.

The organization’s president, Jayne Hitchcock, is a cyberbullying and cybercrime expert and regularly speaks at conferences training law enforcement personnel as well as at schools, colleges/universities and more. She is also the author of nine books.  The most recent, True Crime Online, was released in January 2013.

WHO@ receives up to 75 reports of online harassment/cyberstalking incidents each week.  Of these, 90-95% are legitimate cases.  WHO@ resolves over 70% of the cases they receive.  More preliminary results are as follows:

•    Each year the primary way harassment began was via e-mail, no matter where the victim previously encountered their harasser/stalker
•    This was followed by Facebook in 2012, then web sites, message boards, IM, forged profiles and texting
•    However, in 2011 it was email followed by Facebook, web sites, texting, message boards, blogs and chat
•    WHO@ saw an increase in how the harassment escalated Facebook first, followed by texting, web sites, multiple SNS, message boards, forged profiles and email
•    Over 60% of the complete cases submitted to WHO@ showed the harasser and victim were NOT in the same state/country
•    Male and female harassers were very close – males were 49%, females 25% (the remainder were unknown gender by the victim). When WHO@ began calculating statistics in 2000, 68% of harassers were male
•    Every year, victims were about 50/50 on whether they had a prior relationship to their harasser
•    Of those that did have a relationship, over half were an “ex”; followed by online acquaintance, work, family, friend, then school

“From entertainment to education and from shopping to dating, the internet has provided an entirely new virtual world for everyone to enjoy,” Hitchcock says, but she warns that the online world is also a breeding ground for murderers, kidnappers, child predators, scam artists, terrorists, hackers, and other criminals. “The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center found that in 2011 a record-setting 314,246 fraud complaints were filed. That’s a 3.4 percent increase from 2010, with a monetary loss for victims at a staggering estimate of $485.3 million—almost double the number for the previous year.”

Copyright of Working to Halt Online Abuse 2013 (haltabuse.org).

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