Each year in the United States, more than 6 million people are targeted by a stalker, according to The National Center for Victims of Crime.
In many cases, its young women being stalked online.
Among the victims is 24-year-old valley resident Amanda Trudnich.
“I feel like social media makes it a lot easier for people to have access,” said Trudnich.
The college student says it was about two years ago when she was stalked by a former boyfriend she dated as a teenager.
Her ex used Facebook and other means to track her activities.
“One day he randomly showed up in my city that I live in, and told me he wanted to see me. I told him I wanted him to stay away. It kind of escalated a little bit from there. He was calling me and messaging me, and saying weird things to me,” said Trudnich.
Pursuing a degree in physical therapy, chances are, a number of women on campus with Amanda have been stalked as well.
In fact, the latest numbers from Pew Research” show 26 percent of women ages 18 to 24 have been stalked online.
The rise of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and more now make it easier than ever for stalkers to target their victims.
Throw in tracking software and an ever growing list of apps, the tools are numerous and sophisticated.
The apps include such titles as “Girls Around Me”, “Creepy” and “Situationist”.
“I’ve heard of other people using the “Track My iPhone” app to track other people’s movements, and that is like really scary to me,” said Trudnich.
For Trudnich, the stalking eventually stopped.
It stopped only after she blocked her ex on Facebook, after she blocked his phone line, and after she told mutual friends to stop talking about her around the ex-boyfriend, who Amanda says was also stalking other women.
Social media security expert Gary Bahadur, who wrote the book “Securing the Clicks” says Amanda Trudnich did the right thing, and says even more can be done to stop online stalkers who might be more aggressive, persistent and dangerous.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if more people are being stalked and don’t even know it, because its easier to hide yourself, to create anonymous profiles and start connecting to the person you want to stalk,” said Bahadur.
For anyone concerned about being stalked online, Bahadur recommends the following steps and safeguards:
First, limit the use of status updates that reveal your location.
Second, be sure to activate privacy settings to restrict those who view your updates, and limit what you share.
And finally, Bahadur says you should “stalk yourself”. Use search engines, apps and social networks to identify what anyone can find out about you online.
A few simple steps, which could turn out to be life saving.
“Take advantage of how you can block people, and block their phone numbers, and limit their access as much as possible,” said Trudnich.
The Pew Research Centers says 7 percent of young men are also being stalked online.