The Independent: Gifts used by cyberstalkers and abusers to spy on and track victims, say campaigners

Lamiat Sabin

Victims of stalking and domestic abuse should be alert of gifts that could be bugged with hidden spyware and given to them by controlling partners and exes, a charity warned today.

Abusers are able to hide cameras and listening devices in seemingly innocent presents such as mobile phones, ornaments and keepsakes due to cheap and easily available technology, Digital-Trust said.

Jennifer Perry, chief executive of the organisation working with victims of electronic-abuse, said: “Stalking behaviour occurs in many domestic settings both while living with a controlling partner or after the couple have split up.

“Surveillance technology is getting cheaper, better disguised, simpler to use and easier to find.”

Smartphone apps can be operated remotely to track a victim’s every move, spy on photos taken with the device and even read emails and messages sent to and from other people.

Abusers are even known to give toys to their former, or current, partners’ children that have voice-activated spyware installed in them to monitor their private daily lives. The charity states that chances of this happening increase in the run-up to Christmas when children are likely to visit an estranged parent.

RoseMarie, a Relate counsellor, said she worked on a case that reported a woman’s ex-partner giving their young children a toy with a tracking device hidden inside it.

She said: “We placed a woman in a refuge whose abusive ex was determined to find her. He only had supervised visits to his young children but he used that opportunity to try and get to the mother by placing a tracking device inside a toy.

“That is why it is important we start consider a woman’s digital safety because it can easily compromise her physical safety”.

Popular and legitimate devices that can be attached to phones and possessions by the owner in case of theft or loss are also used by stalkers that sneak them into an unknowing person’s car or bag.

Read more:
Coercive or controlling behaviour an indictable charge
Financial domestic abuse now a criminal offence

Abusive exes and partners can also keep track of whereabouts and activity by hacking into personal online accounts and monitoring social networks by setting up fake profiles.

Sky News: Domestic Abuse Victims Warned Over Presents

The Independent: Police retrain to tackle rise in cyber stalking