Fortunately, most of us don’t think like a predator. Understanding how predators act and think is one of the most difficult things a victim has to do. But identifying predators is a useful skill, not only for victims but anyone online.
There are many types of online predators. Financial ones who run scams, sexual predators who target adults and children, and I would say internet trolls are also a type of sadistic predator.
Stalking is a hunting term and a stalker is a type of hunter. Stalking isn’t a random act.
Stalkers don’t just go online and start targeting the first person they meet. They have a type of person in mind, someone vulnerable and easy to exploit.
They chose their online environment carefully. They know that certain websites will offer more opportunities than others.
Social media sites, like online dating, are excellent places to find lonely individuals who are looking to meet people. They also offer a lot of information, so abusers can get to know their target.
It is a perfect hunting ground for both sexual and financial predators.
Confidence scammers go online, build a relationship and then ask for money.
One scam is to get the victim to engage in cybersex on a webcam, capture those images and then blackmail the victim.
If the victim is young, they threaten to tell their parents or friends. This is what happened in the sad case of Scottish teenager Daniel Perry earlier this year, and resulted in his suicide.
If the victim is in a relationship, they will threaten to send the photos to their partner.
The abuser may threaten to discredit or embarrass the victim by sending the photos to the victim’s employers or clients. Sometimes the threat is simply to post these humiliating pictures online, tagging them so if someone searches the victim’s name they will find the photos.
Sexual predators are looking for victims they can manipulate into providing explicit pictures or meet up for sex.
Many of these types of predators are abusive both emotionally and physically. Some are serial rapists who target women or men, engage with them, arrange a date and then rape them.
The victims are often too embarrassed to report it. They feel that because they met the person online people will see this as risky behaviour and be less sympathetic.
Abusers know a lot about the people they target.
Paedophiles know where to find their target age range, how to sound and act like a young person online and how to groom.
They specifically target their potential victims.
They have the skills to identify kids and adults that are at risk or vulnerable by what they say and how they act online. They zero in on those that are lonely, sexually confused, lack confidence, are experiencing some form of pain, neglect or loss in their life. These are they people that are easier to befriend – and manipulate.
It is difficult to identify an online abuser because they know how to act or blend online so they don’t stand out. They also hide behind fake identifies, profiles and photos. They access sites via proxy servers – they want to be anonymous, untraceable.
These abusers are usually very experienced.
It takes patience and time to develop a successful scam that will pay out thousands of pounds, or to sexually groom someone. They will spend inordinate amount of time and energy developing their online relationship with their victims.
I say victims because this type of predator will target multiple victims. They will drop some of the victims because they see more potential in another. They will often pass on that victim to other predators.
It is easy to spot an experienced predator.
For example, if a stalking victim is being methodically targeted by an abuser using fake profiles, the abuser starts contacting friends and family, have their accounts hacked, tracked, they are being humiliated online etc. – I can guarantee there will be other victims.
You don’t get good at stalking, trolling, scamming or being a sexual predator without experience.
Psychologists will tell you that past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour. It is also true to say current behaviour is an indication of past behaviour. That is why when a predator like Jimmy Savile is exposed, there are so many victims.
Please be in no doubt that online predators are smart, experienced, effective, master manipulators and very focused.
They gain enormous satisfaction finding new prey and achieving their goals.
That is why they are so dangerous.
Warning signs of an online predator include:
- Agreeing with everything you say “as if you were soul mates” or someone who just “really gets you”.
- Anxious to move from an online site e.g. dating, to private method of communication; email, instant messaging, Skype, texting, or telephone calls.
- Asking for personal information, where you work, where you went to school etc.
- Want to know about your emotional state, getting you to pour your heart out to them.
- Start talking about how much they like you only after a few chats. They seem to be too interested, too soon.
- Trying to disrupt relationships suggesting that your friends and family don’t understand, appreciate, or love you – but the abuser can.
- They know things about you that you didn’t tell them – they’ve done their research.
- They seem to know when and where you are online. They say “I know you were online because I saw your posts” or they are always showing up in the same chatroom.
If you are being harassed or stalked you will find advice on how to protect yourself on www.digital-stalking.com