The creation of the Internet has been, in my humble opinion, one of the biggest wonders of our lifetime. The ability to sit at a keyboard and type information onto a screen and suddenly have a plethora of suggestions to help you find what you are looking for is utterly amazing. To be able to search for anything from the address of your doctor’s office, to where to buy a pink motorcycle to how to raise sea monkeys as a business without even leaving your couch is crazy when you think about it. Those of us who are Gen-X or Baby Boomers can attest to having to walk or ride our bikes to the local library only to have to work our way through the Dewey Decimal System to find out the facts to put into our Social Studies Essay can appreciate it much more than someone that was born in the 90’s can wrap their mind around.
However, just like with every other great invention, there are those that will take full advantage and find a way to make someone’s life not so great, just because of how they use the internet. They view the internet as a tool to be used to make someone’s life anywhere from difficult to unbearable. To steal, embarrass or ruin someone (that most of the time they don’t even know) just to gain something that they did not earn or are not entitled to in the first place.
Unfortunately, we have come across too many clients that had their lives “interrupted” by someone through someone’s misuse of the Internet. We try very hard to help them as much as possible, but the sad reality is that it is much easier to bully someone when they can do it virtually and not have to face the person they are hurting. Here are just some of the examples of cases that we have had over the years. While the towns they came from may be different than where you are, the situations may be very much the same as you or someone close to you may be going through. How do I know this? Because sadly, you would not have started reading this article had it not been something you were dealing with. I genuinely hope it helps. If nothing else, you will realize that you are not alone in what you are going through.
- Stalked in Seaside, Queens – We had a case not too long ago that involved a young woman in Queens who was very much involved, as most young people are, in Social Media. Everything she did seemed to revolve around Social Media. She viewed herself as a “Content Creator” and would post about everything she did from the time she woke up to the time she went to bed. There were no “secrets” from her “fans” and she loved being “famous”, or at least feeling as if she was. She would read the comments on all her posts and after a while, she started to notice that one person, in particular, would comment on her posts every time. He was always one of the first ones to respond to anything that she posted. But then she started to notice that he was commenting on ALL her accounts, not just Instagram. She saw him start appearing in the comments on TikTok, then Facebook. He would even reference old posts on other sites, such as Snapchat and Twitter. He seemed to be popping up everywhere she had an account. Then one day, she started getting instant messages from him. She was polite about it at first, but then it became more and more frequent and personal. She started to get nervous and when she stopped responding, he got more aggressive. She began to get nervous and stopped posting, but he then became more focused on wanting to know what she was doing, whether he could meet her, was she single, etc. She finally came to us. The first thing we did was instruct her to file the complaint with the police department. Then we did a deep, deep Internet/OSINT dive into this person to find out who he was. After a lot of searching, we finally found enough to figure out who he was, but it took a lot of digging to turn up what started with a username, then an email, and finally a name. Turns out it was someone on the other side of the country, but that did not make it any less scary when we discovered that he had family in Forest Hills, Queens and was planning to come and visit so he could “visit” our Client. He knew so much about her from her posts that he convinced his relatives that she was his girlfriend. Fortunately, she came to us before he came looking for her. So if nothing else, never reveal too much on your Social Media accounts. You never know who is taking notes about you and plans to find you. It could turn out to be harmless – or not.
- Cyberbully from Stamford, Connecticut – A while back we had a case where a couple from Stamford called and needed our help. Their teenage son (let’s call him Ben) was being bullied through a group on Discord. At first, it was harmless fun and their son would chat with other gamers when he was online playing Fortnite. But then someone happened to get on to the server where Ben and his friends were playing and things got dark very quickly. The stranger started to tease Ben and eventually, his friends would join in. He eventually turned Ben’s friends against him and he left the group. He went to another server and everything seemed fine for a while until the stranger showed up again. He appeared to be following Ben and was determined to torment this poor kid every chance he got. Ben became severely depressed and finally told his parents what was happening. When the police were unable to help them, his parents came to us for help. We worked together with a company that specializes in internet investigations of this nature and were eventually able to track the person from their IP address to their location in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It turned out to be a “scorned ex-girlfriend” that was out to “ruin his life”. She almost did, unfortunately, but luckily Ben’s parents were able to get involved before things got really bad. We cannot stress enough how important it is to check in on what your teen is getting into online. No, it’s not easy, but eventually, if you keep at them when something doesn’t feel right, they may let you in so you can help before it’s too late.
- SoHo-Much Harassment – We had a case not too long ago where we were asked by a man in his 20s from SoHo in NYC to help make someone stop harassing him (we will call him “Will”). Will had met someone on Wapo and things seemed to be going ok. They met for drinks in Brooklyn Heights NY and as sometimes happens, the person in real life is not a good match. Will tried to break it off, but the person was angry and turned out to be not so nice and started to lash out at Will. He sent emails to Will’s boss at his job in Long Island City saying he was a customer and that Will was a terrible employee. He would go to Will’s parents’ residence in Fort Greene, Brooklyn where the guy would damage Will’s scooter, send him nasty texts, and often post lies about Will on Social Media accounts where Will would see them. He would post lies about Will and create photos with Will’s face on a woman’s body, then post them on Will’s Social Media pages to embarrass him. So Will came to us for help when the Police said that they could not arrest the guy unless they had proof. This person had started to now take it to the next level and would follow Will at a distance and “taunt” him. We did what is called “counter-surveillance”. What that means, is that we followed Will to see who was following him. When Will saw the guy, he texted us the information. We then got video footage of the guy damaging Will’s plants on his stoop, then walking up behind him and taunting him. We then gave the evidence to Will, and he was able to not only have the guy arrested but to put a restraining order on him. Eventually, the bully moved out of Queens and hasn’t bothered Will anymore thankfully.
It is an age where people are not always “picked on” in person, but rather by cyber bullies that hide behind a computer to do their dirty work. It is a cowardly way to “get back” at someone, but one that can cause damage to a person’s mental health as well. All too often we read the stories of suicide or depression and how it is raking havoc on our society, all because of a few bad apples that go too far under the veil of secrecy that is always available on the internet. So when you go into Chat Rooms or on Social Media, take caution. Do not share too much, or at least if you do, use a different name and a different “home town” and most of all, try to be careful – not everyone on Social Media is your friend.
Investigreat, LLC is a recognized full service Private Investigation Agency that is fully licensed, insured and bonded, handling cases all over Connecticut as well as Queens NY, Brooklyn NY, Bronx NY, New York City, Staten Island and Long Island NY. Adam, along with his wife, Terri, have been working cases for Legal Teams, Insurance Companies, Private Businesses, Municipalities, School Systems and general investigation services for the public since 1992.
Investigreat, LLC | Private Investigators serving Connecticut, Long Island City, Jamaica NY, Brooklyn NY and Queens NY | Office Numbers: 860-899-1710 or 718-412-1845 | Text: 718-309-1269