Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Cyber Stalking
We all know the internet can be used for education and entertainment. But increasingly more people are using the net to torment each other. One such case here in South Florida even has a mother of small children fearing her family is in danger. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- It doesn't take much effort to find people selling sex on the internet. But what if someone copied photos like this and then posted them with your name ... and your work and home phone numbers?
Victim: "I've had over 700 phone calls."
Carmel Cafiero: "All from men who think that you are advertising for sex on the internet?"
That's just what happened to this South Florida businesswoman who does not want her identity known until the person or persons behind her torment are caught.
Victim: "Initially, I just felt so violated and scared."
She says when she would contact a site to have the bogus picture taken down, another one would pop up on another site. And there are text messages. This is a tame one: "Are you available tonight, sexy?"
Victim: "When my cell phone rings, I jump. There are times when I can't answer my phone for days because it's just non-stop."
Often, she says, the callers refuse to believe it isn't her in the ads. Her attorney, Leah Mayersohn, says it's also hurt the victim's business and her reputation.
Leah Mayersohn: "It's disrupted her entire life. It has disrupted her family's life. It has put her in tremendous fear. Although there has not been a direct threat to physically harm her, she hasn't been able to sleep."
On top of all that, Mayersohn says her client is terrified one of the callers could trace her telephone number and track her down. She's changed her home number -- but can't change her business phones.
Leah Mayersohn: "And the men don't want to take no for an answer. They're persistent. They've asked her to reconsider."
Private investigator Robert Crispin says he thinks he knows who is doing the cyber-stalking and has discovered evidence to prove it -- evidence that will be turned over to police.
Robert Crispin: "I do. I think that we have a lot of evidence that is going to result in a conviction."
But under current law, the charge will be minor -- a misdemeanor -- because there has been no threat to physically harm the victim.
Leah Mayersohn: "And this really should be a felony punishable by prison because the nature of the course of conduct in this particular situation has been outrageous."
Mayersohn says she will try to convince contacts in the state legislature to make Florida laws tougher when it comes to this kind of cyber stalking. But, in the meantime, an innocent victim feels very vulnerable.
Victim: "I've felt just so victimized, and I don't understand why there are no laws that can protect me."
Police are expected to take action in this case shortly. When they do, the victim says she'll face the camera and tell even more about how her life has been shattered by someone operating in the shadows of the internet.