Victims of Online Predators and Stalkers

The internet often seems like a more hospitable place than it really is. Just like the real world, it is home to some nasty and unscrupulous characters. It’s easy to forget how much information we sometimes put into their hands through nonchalant online behavior.

Kristen Pratt, a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida, responded to a harmless-seeming Facebook message from a former classmate whom she’d never met. In the message, classmate Patrick Macchione asked her how she was and what she was up to. He turned out to be a deeply disturbed young man who went on to harass Ms. Pratt through Facebook, Twitter, telephone, and Youtube videos and threaten her with death. He is now behind bars.

Jayne Hitchcock, president of Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA), responded to an online ad from a literary agency only to learn that the agency was completely disreputable. The agency set up a false email address claiming to be Ms. Hitchcock and used it to send spam, as well as to post her home address, phone number, and some made-up information about her sex life.

--Liz Soltan