Advise Me

Am I Being Stalked? How to Recognize and Prevent It

Raise your hand if you’ve searched a former partner, enemy, or potential suitor’s social media profile or feed. Admit it. We’ve all been guilty of internet creeping. 

Most of us like to get to know other people. But for some, internet creeping can become something more sinister: stalking. 

“Stalking is different from being nosy about someone. It is unwanted attention that occurs repeatedly, causes fear and puts someone’s safety at risk. It’s not a one-time event,” said Tyler Vestal, MD, a psychiatrist with Banner Health in Glendale, AZ. “It’s dangerous because stalking can lead to physical danger, abuse and violence.”

Stalking affects millions of people in the U.S., about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetimes. Most victims know their stalkers, either current or former intimate partners, former friends, coworkers or roommates, or someone they have maybe met before. However, there are instances of stalking from strangers as well.

How to recognize a stalker

It can be hard to know where to draw the line between an annoying or clingy person and a stalker. 

It doesn’t help when you have TV shows like “You” that romanticize it. Sorry fans, Joe in “You” is a stalker—and a murderer. 

“Stalking can occur in any form,” Dr. Vestal said. “It can include a variety of tactics, which can happen in person and/or online.” 

There is no single psychological or behavioral profile that predicts what a stalker will or will not do. However, if you know the signs to watch for, you may be able to catch harmful behaviors before they develop into stalking. 

The following are 10 warning signs that you are being stalked. A stalker may:

  • Follow you or show up at the same places
  • Drive by or hang out at or near your home, work or school
  • Know your schedule and where to find you
  • Call, message or send gifts despite being told to stop
  • Collect info about you through friends, family members or coworkers
  • Create fake online profiles to continue contacting you after they have been blocked on their account (cyber stalking)
  • Threaten to disclose intimate images or embarrassing information about you online or by word of mouth
  • Take pictures of you without your consent
  • Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends or pets
  • Use your smartphone or other devices with GPS tracking
  • Damage your personal property, break into your home

I think I’m being stalked. What should I do?

Stalking can make you feel afraid, unsafe and stressed out. For this reason, you may not be sure what to do to feel safe or cope with the harmful effects of stalking.

You can do the following things to make your life a little safer. 

Call the police

If you feel like you are in imminent danger or fear harm to yourself, call 911 and get help immediately. 

“First and foremost, protect yourself,” Dr. Vestal said. “If you are in danger, call the police and get help. Put your safety above all else.”

Any form of stalking is wrong, even if the person stalking you used to be a friend or intimate partner. You shouldn’t feel guilty. Many stalkers are manipulative and will do anything to keep a “relationship” going with you long after it’s been over.

Although laws vary by state, most people being stalked can get an order of protection. Restraining orders seriously reduces the risk of stalking escalating into a violent crime.

Cut contact

It’s best not to respond to any communications. Any response, even an angry one, could encourage their stalking behavior. This is what they want. Block their phone number, email address and social media.

Document or save evidence

Start documenting and keeping a log of all interactions. Save all communications, including emails, text messages, letters and even screenshots of postings on social networking sites, as evidence of stalking behavior.

Confide in people you trust

Talk about it with family and friends. A strong and informed support system with your family and friends is very important. Show them a picture of the stalker.

Connect with a local agency

Don’t be afraid to reach out to a local victim advocacy group. They can connect you to confidential resources and help you create a safety plan. 

What about cyberstalking?

  • Set your social media accounts to private.
  • Change your email and key online accounts and smartphone app passwords. 
  • Review all your privacy and security settings.
  • Contact your phone’s service provider to ensure no other parties can access your account information.
  • Ensure your computer and phone have updated antispyware software installed and turned on.
  • Don’t post photos or videos on social media showing your location. Even if your account is private, your stalker could quickly figure out where you are by using one of your “friend’s” accounts. Turn off Location Service on your smartphone.

Additional tips for teens being stalked

  • Stick in pairs or groups of people in public places.
  • Pay attention to people and vehicles around you.
  • Don’t accept requests from unknown or fake accounts.
  • Let teachers and school administration know about the stalking.
  • Parents: 
    • Watch for signs of depression or mental health issues and help get them the support they need.
    • Monitor their social media usage. Here are some tips on how to proceed.


There is a distinct difference between innocently searching the name of someone online and stalking. Stalking is different because unwanted attention occurs repeatedly, causes fear and puts a person’s safety at risk. 

Stalking is dangerous. It’s important to protect yourself and involve local law enforcement. 

Stalking can also be traumatic and take a toll on your mental health.  

Need help with anxiety, fear and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms?

Call the Banner Behavioral Health Appointment Line at (800) 254-4357.

You can also reach out to the Stalking Prevention, Awareness and Resource Center Helpline at 855-4VICTIM (484-2846) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233). 

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