Victim of Cyberstalking? Me Too. What Can We Do About Cyberstalking?

Image by Robinraj Premchand from Pixabay

I almost escaped 2020 with not hearing from one of my stalkers.  Wouldn’t you know, he waited until the last few days of the year to contact me again.

The man who has decided to repeatedly send me messages on my phone and on GROWLr is not a stranger to stalking and threating members of the LGBT community. I’ve learned through this ordeal that some of my friends, coworkers past and present, and acquaintances have placed restraining orders on him before.  I’ve heard from those in Florida and NYC and even internationally that this person is someone you just would rather never have known.

Jumping back to this summer, this repeat offender emerged with plans of yet another Bear event. It was confirmed that the host hotels he listed knew nothing of this person collecting funds and booking rooms for attendees. This trickery, this deceit, and poor behavior has gone on for years. I had moved from Maine in 2013 (he prides himself in knowing I’m from Maine originally, odd, but true), and his name was well-known as someone to not trust or associate with. Over the years, we as a community in Fort Lauderdale were always victim to the repeat shout outs on GROWLr with his fake promotions.  We all felt bad for those that were taking his invites seriously as well as those real events that would be hurt by his falsehoods for trust in the real events dwindled. 

Noticing he was using/flaunting his @alum.mit.edu email to possibly add some clout and authenticity to the event and knowing some people in higher education and at MIT, I contacted the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and notified the alumni department that this person was using their alumni email service to plan allegedly fraudulent events. They read the news reports from multiple sources for themselves and came to their own conclusion that this person was not someone their institution wished to be associated with.

Thanks for your reply. The Alumni association is in the process of disallowing him from using his MIT address. He is someone that is known to the Institute with the understanding that he does not portray the school in a positive light. I also made the office of the general council aware of his behavior I sincerely wish there was more than can be done. Please stay healthy and safe. – MIT Alum Email

The MIT Police department contacted me and we had a good conversation about the ordeal but neither myself or this person were on MIT grounds so no harm could be reported or looked into, which was totally understandable. 

The fake events have been promoted for years through GROWLr shout outs, a service where individuals could pay to blast people in a certain area about goods, services, and in this case, fraud.  I was tired of seeing these come out and blasted across the app. Contacting the administrators at GROWLr through the app and an email I had from a previous interview with the founder of GROWLr, I was able to get the account that was pushing the fake event blocked.

Thank you for bringing this individual to our attention. After further investigation, we have removed him from the app.

I do want to note that as a free-to-use app that is openly available on the internet, it’s impossible to guarantee that he will be indefinitely blocked from getting back onto our app. 

However, the GROWLr safety team has established an ongoing operation of proactively searching for content related to this specific individual so that it can be identified and removed as quickly as possible if he attempts to get back on the app.

We will continue to be vigilant and encourage GROWLr users to report suspicious profiles by clicking the “Report User” button on the profile. 

Please don’t ever hesitate to contact us in the future if you believe someone is misusing GROWLr to cause harm to another individual or the community. We take these matters very seriously. Thank you for helping GROWLr continue to be a great community. – GROWLr

So yes, I poked the bear, the bear that has been a thorn in the Bear community in Fort Lauderdale and beyond.  I should have expected something in return.

After his GROWLr account was removed/suspended, I received a text from this person, on my phone.  Yes, we can all find everyone’s phone number if we look hard enough.  He started texting me the information about the fake party.  I was a little shocked to receive the text then, and many more today, but hey, it’s par for the course when you are dealing with someone like this.

How did I originally know this party was a fake?  It wasn’t the fact that he was sharing one man’s name, saying he was HIV positive and was not invited. Or that there would be no superchubs in speedos present, but there would be old men present, but that would be okay since they had money. But it was the fact that he was involving Stacy Ritter, President and CEO of Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.  I reached out to Ritter about her playing Goldilocks at the event and she stated she has never and will never work on a project with this individual.  More information was shared, but let’s stick to this case of stalking and harassment.

Not only did I receive a text on my phone, but a new GROWLr account was made, the same message of the fake event was sent, and the account was reported to GROWLr.

The blocking did not happen, twice, or three times, or four times, it happened ELEVEN TIMES.

This would mean that a person would have to use ELEVEN DIFFERENT EMAIL ADDRESSES to create accounts.  Why would someone spend the time in making 11 different email accounts to keep resending the same fake message over and over again.  And the original account used the shout out feature of the GROWLr app. All subsequent messages were just that, messages directed to me, not a shout out, but over and over just to me. 

Oh, it gets more odd.  The 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th fake GROWLr accounts were created using my profile picture and my full legal name in the profile. And it was not my GROWLr pic, but my LinkedIn account profile picture. I think it’s a fun pic of me belting out some tune at Solid Gold Tea at the Boat Slip in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  It’s hard to describe the sadness you feel for the other person when you receive a message from a profile they created using your image and your name, just to send you a fake invite to a party, have that profile blocked, and then have it happen 4 more times after they had already been shut down 4 other times.  But at least he got me thinner and younger, I guess I should thank him for that. 

The message GROWLr emailed me as I reported accounts 1 through 9 was:

We will continue to be vigilant and encourage GROWLr users to report suspicious profiles by clicking the “Report User” button on the profile.

When we close a person’s account, we block the same email or phone number from signing back up. Unfortunately, blocking an IP address is not effective in trying to keep an individual off an app or website. Most people use numerous IP addresses every day by passing different cellular towers, using public wifi, rebooting their modem, etc. Additionally, people often share IP addresses (e.g. an entire college dorm can have one IP address for everyone), so blocking IP’s often inadvertently keeps other members from the app, while not reliably keeping the actual unwanted person away.

The Meet Group takes seriously the need to keep harmful content and bad devices off of our apps, and as such, has recently invested in brand new technologies that better enable blocking devices that do bad things. We will be posting a detailed description, technical overview, and early results about our new device blocking technology on our company blog (https://medium.com/themeetgroup) in the coming weeks. – GROWLr

So this week, he once again started sending me messages of yet another planned fake Bear event in Fort Lauderdale, broken link and all. GROWLr profiles 10 and 11 happened Tuesday and today, respectively.  This would once again mean the usage of a 10th and 11th email/phone number to create these new accounts.  The texts to my phone started again, too. It is sad that someone finds the time to do this, to make fake profiles just to taunt others. 

At the time of screen shot taking, the 11th account had a profile image, but it currently does not, meaning GROWLr blocked that one, too. Notice the FIVE accounts with my full name on it, which also had my image as the profile picture.

After the fourth or fifth fake profile, I wanted to look up the nationally known case where the FBI questioned him over his domestic terrorism threats and wanted to see the legal outcome of said questioning, but found so much more within the public court records showing this man has made a career (or tried to) of suing people for slander, and even suing his family members. He currently has at least one court case open.  The results below are just one search in one county in Florida. There might be one or a few more cases found in other parts of the state and the cases are shady as to if this person was the plaintiff or the defendant, but yeah.


So, if you know anyone that is a good lawyer dealing with cyberstalking, let me know for I may have a case for them. I did not mention the threats he has made against me, but everything else fits multiple parts of the definition of Cyberstalking. See bullets 1, 4, 6, and 8 below. 

What Does Internet Stalking Include?

Before learning how to protect yourself from internet stalkers, you need to understand what it is. Widely speaking, cyberstalking refers to the use of the Internet with the purpose of harassing, attacking, and embarrassing an individual. Here are some typical examples of cyberstalking:

  • Sending unwanted, threatening, and intrusive messages, and emails (through social media, online forums, etc) – I told him to stop, but he continued, repeated, made new profiles just to do so.
  • Publishing humiliating or abusive online content about the victim (content of sexual nature, which overlaps with sexual harassment)
  • Monitoring the victim’s movements by using GPS technology
  • Taking over the victim’s identity on online platforms – the use of my profile picture and full name on the app.
  • Sending offensive material to the victim
  • Accessing the victim’s social media or email accounts to extract personal information, change their password, or follow them – he went into my LinkedIn account and downloaded my picture to use it fraudulently.
  • Infecting the victim’s computers with viruses
  • Making threats to the victim – I have the screen shots of those threats

So what can we do? Yes, blocking and having their accounts deleted has been done, but this one keeps coming back.  GROWLr and MIT were great in helping lessen some of his activities, but he still keeps coming.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to go through this with someone I actually knew or once cared for which I am sure is the case for many suffering from cyberbullying and cyberstalking.

I’d be more than willing to use my case to educate others about Cyberbullying and cyberstalking. Let’s see who has the best advice out there.  I did reach out to one of the more well-known gay legal bodies, but I thought I would see what others may have to offer before proceeding. If you want to send me an email, customerservice@instinctmag.com . Maybe we can chat about a follow up piece or a Zoom / Instagram Live so we can educate others about cyberbullying and cyberstalking. 

Thanks for your help.  I know I am not alone. 

Photo by Muhammad Raufan Yusup on Unsplash

This is the opinion and personal experience of the Managing Editor of Instinct Magazine.  It is not the opinion of other writers or the magazine, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …

What do you think?