Fact Check

BCC to Avoid Stalkers

Woman who failed to use 'blind carbon copy' e-mail feature stalked by online acquaintance?

Published Apr 3, 2000

Legend:   Woman is stalked by on-line acquaintance; use the "blind carbon copy" feature in e-mail to prevent this from happening to you!

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2000]

Late one evening, while online, I received an IM (Instant Message) from a gentleman who said he knew me through mutual pals online. We chatted for an hour or so before deciding to keep in touch, as we had so many things in common.

After a week or so of knowing him, I trusted him with my name (first name) and phone number; after all, he knew my friends and I felt he must have been OK if they all liked and knew him. He knew a lot about them, he knew a lot about me and he knew a lot about a lot! He seemed like such a nice person, a pleasant person, and someone whom I felt very comfortable sharing my time online (and on the phone) with.

Most of the friends I had made on AOL knew me and I knew them, so I felt quite safe with anyone whom they associated with. We all talked on a regular basis, though we seldom went into chat rooms. One night, a friend from our group of friends invited me to a chat room where several of the friends had gathered and were chatting (it was an open chat in the members category, romance) and we were all chatting when this gentleman popped into the chat room. He popped in and then left quickly. He then blocked his buddy list and sent me an IM. I instantly became curious as to why he was acting so suspicious.

Then, for the first time since I met and started chatting with him, I mentioned him to one of the friends who were in the chat room. One whom this gentleman claimed association with was in total awe, she did not know who he was! However, she had experienced the same thing as I had. Only difference was, the guy who sent her an IM claimed to have known her from a former friend online. Things were beginning to look really suspicious. The more she and I chatted, the more suspicious it became.

It also became apparent that this guy knew none of us. Suddenly, he disappeared off-line for a few days ... then one day he pops back in and sends me an IM saying that we need to talk. He called me at my home and I was very upset, so I asked him how he really found me and why he had felt the need to lie in the first place. This is where you all need to pay attention: He told me that he spotted my screen name on a forward that one of my friends sent to someone else. My screen name is what attracted him. He then used the screen name of others on the list of forwards to acquaint himself with me and various others from our clique of friends. He also used the member directory to look up info about others on the list of forwards, so not to look suspicious. He said he felt it was the only way he would have the chance to get to know me, and the main attraction to me was "My Screen name" because he thought it was "sexy!"

I was upset, needless to say, as I had trusted this man with my personal info ... such as phone number and name. He also knew where I lived (thanks to the phone bill) and I was now his prey! A few days after having last talked to this person and thinking that was the last of him, I received a phone call at 4:00 am, it was this man telling me he was in town to see a friend who lived 20 minutes from my house, and wanted to know if I would like to meet him for coffee or breakfast. When I told him, it was not such a good idea, he became irate and hung up on me. I immediately called him back (caller ID) and explained to him that my husband was back home (trying to scare him)and to please not be so mad (in fear of him and what he might do). His whole demeanor changed and a different person was on the other end of that phone; not the man whom I had talked to online so many times (and seemed so sweet and caring).

He was very uneasy and angry towards me. Telling him that my husband had returned and we were reconciling was a lie, and I told him this to make him think I was not alone! Imagine the feeling I felt in the pit of my stomach when he came back with the following response: "You're a lying b—, your husband is not there with you...you are alone!" I hung up on him and immediately called the Broward County Sheriffs office and told them what had happened. They sent an officer over to take a report and said that was really all they could do for me at that time. So, I packed a few belongings into my car, while the deputies waited and drove to my sister's home for the night. I was in shock! Fifteen or twenty minutes after I arrived at her home, I received a phone call from this man again! He knew I called the Sheriff and reported him; he knew where I was and he knew my sister and her husband's names!

People, let me tell you something, this man had been stalking me for weeks and I had no idea!! I walked, ate, slept and breathed in constant fear until he was finally arrested for stalking! Not for stalking me! Nope! For stalking another lady who lived in Kendall, FL. This is what I was informed of when I was contacted by Kendall Florida detectives (who was contacted by Broward County) when it was discovered he was facing other various charges. Meanwhile, I went on and filed charges against him in Broward County. I wanted to share this with you all. And yes, it is all true.

Friends, when you forward things and you leave your friends names out in plain view like that, you are putting THEM and YOURSELF in what could be grave danger. I hope I have gotten this message across; as I have not even begun to mention his assault (rape, using deadly force) charges the detectives from Broward County and Kendall, FL uncovered on him while investigating his prior history! Yes, he had been charged with raping a Tifton, GA lady whom he had met online also. He used the same technique he used on my friend, and me; he stalked her for weeks before finally getting up the nerve to break in to her home (as she slept) and rape and beat her! He was out on bond and his trial was pending all the while when he was online and still trying to do the same thing to more women! People, please!!! Be safe, be careful and BCC!!!! This is for real.

Use BCC - Blind Carbon Copy, OR COPY, PASTE to a new email form. Make the "To" to yourself, then list the people you want to e-mail it to in the "BCC" line. (NOT the "CC" line). No matter how many people are listed under the "BCC ", each one will only see their name. Then send.

(BLIND CARBON COPY In Outlook Express, version 5)

1. highlight and copy the part of the message you want to send.

2. Click on the new message icon

3. Right click in the Main window and paste the message there.

4. Click on the grey "To" button.

5. Highlight the name you want to send the message to

6. Click on the "BCC" button and not the "To" button.

( In case you are in AOL and don't know how to BCC, when you put your "send to" names in the top of your e-mail, put a set of parenthesis around the names. This will send your e-mail to your friends, but when they get them, only their own name is on the e-mail. All your other friends' names will not be on it, no matter how many people you sent the mail to.

Example: (Suzy Q, Tom Jones, Harry James, Peter Piper) When Suzy Q gets her copy her name is the only name on it with BCC before her name. The others are the same way. Pass this on, but copy the body of the e-mail into another e-mail, so my screen name does not appear on it, and then BCC to your friends.) Protect your screen name, and that of your friends.

Origins:   Is the overwrought opening section of this warning true? We don't know, but unfortunately the scenario described is not implausible, even if some of its details are overblown and simplified. Plenty of disturbed individuals engage in stalking behavior, and they use a wide variety of methods to acquire information about their targets. In the Internet age, unearthing personal information about others is easier than ever. However, although the warning above includes some sound information about addressing this problem, it is perhaps misleading in that it deals only with a very small portion of a much larger


The same common sense rules that apply in real life generally apply to the Internet. When you send out Christmas cards, even if you send the same card to every single person on your list, you probably don't include the names and addresses of every other recipient in each card. Why not? Because there's no reason for these people to know about each other. You're sending a one-to-one communication; the other recipients don't necessarily have any business knowing who else might have received a similar message. Why should that change just because the greeting is sent via e-mail rather than via the postal service?

The answer, of course, is that the Internet isn't quite the same thing. We send messages using people's e-mail addresses rather than their residence addresses, and the speed of communications the Internet makes possible means that people often do send the same message to a group of acquaintances whose identities are revealed to each other so that they can carry on a group discussion. But using the BCC (blind carbon copy) feature of e-mail defeats this mode of communication; you're back to the Christmas card situation described above, where identical cards are mailed separately to a group of people who are unaware of the identities of the other recipients, making group discussion impossible.

So, what to do?

As we mentioned above, the same rules that apply in real life apply to the Internet. Don't assume any message you send — whatever the medium — will never be seen by anyone other than the recipient. Therefore, don't divulge in plain e-mail any information you wouldn't want anyone else to know — save it for a more secure mode of communication (such as talking face to face, or using an e-mail encryption scheme as PGP). If you want to carry on group discussions in e-mail, consider setting up a private mailing list so that one person can send mail to everyone on the list, but no single message will reveal the identities of the other list members.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, however. Many other methods by which someone could glean information about you and your acquaintances via the Internet are available and easy to use, such as searching the web to find out which newsgroups and public mailing lists you participate in. More importantly, many users freely post personal information about themselves in the member directories of services such as AOL and eGroups, and there's simply no way to ensure that this information is not accessed or used by "bad guys."

The bottom line is the same: don't divulge publicly anything you don't want others to know. This might mean that you can't use some nifty features of the Internet, such as broadcasting your interests to the world in order to prompt discussion (and possibly friendship) with others who have the same interests, but you can't have it both ways. It's up to you to decide whether your privacy is more important than the possibility that your personal information might be used to attract stalkers.

Last updated:   12 September 2006

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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