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Self Defense Part 2 

It’s hard to escape computer technology in today’s world. Folks are on Facebook, Twitter, My Space and are blogging around the clock. But what happens when someone breaks into your virtual world?Cyberstalking is a crime and it’s on the rise according to police. I caught up with Maine’s top expert on computer crimes, Sgt. Glenn Lang who supervises computer crimes with the Maine State Police. I wanted to find out just how easy it is to become a victim and how much trouble you can get into if you’re caught cyberstalking. “It can be incredibly dangerous,” Sgt. Lang says. “We had a young woman who’s life was basically destroyed for 3 years by a person who was monitoring her email and pretending to be her and posting a lot of things to craigslist, myspace, to Facebook enticing men to come to her home and they would end up showing up at her home and business.” Recently, 40-year-old Shawn Sayer of Biddeford was sentenced to nearly two years in jail for terrorizing an ex-girlfriend. She went as far as changing her name and moving out of state, but that didn’t stop sayer from tracking her down. State police worked on the cyberstalking case for over a year. “Even with our really strong technology base here we still struggle with these cases,” says Sgt. Lang. “Every day they’re coming up with new ways to terrorize people using the internet.”Sayer is also facing federal charges. Although there is no universally accepted definition of cyberstalking, the term is used by the Department of Justice as the use of the internet, e-mail, or other electronic communications devices to stalk another person. “They can pretend to be you,” says Sgt. Lang. “They can send out emails so it really does appear to be coming from you and there’s a lot of sites out there now designed to assist them in those behaviors. When you have somebody with that kind of information about you on a daily basis it makes it very easy for them to take your life apart.” Julia Colpitts is director of the Coalition to End Domestic Violence. “The most important piece is to really be aware that you’re not alone,” she says. Research shows that there were three and a half million people stalked in the U.S. in 2008. A report from the Department of Justice found that one quarter of those victims reported cyberstalking. “One of the things that’s scariest is the way, the perfect fit for technology with a lot of the characteristics of abusers who are really interested in power, control and secrecy and the ability to dominate and feel superior. Technology plays right into it,” says Colpitts. The report indicates nearly 3 in 4 stalking victims knew their offender in some way. “It’s the same people and same kind of person just using a new tool and the same old crime of power, control and harassment,” says Colpitts. “The cases that we’ve seen almost invariably involve someone who has at some point been fairly close to the victim,” says Sgt. Lang. “Usually an ex-boyfriend or ex girlfriend, but it’s almost invariably someone who may be able to answer those security questions.”