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My friend is being horribly stalked and harassed online by a non-US citizen who currently outside of the US, but is causing her & her family serious concern for safety & wellbeing. He appears to have a mental disorder. What would be the appropriate place to report this to? Thank you!

  • Where in the US? Where is the stalker from? Pease tag the jurisdictions. – Trish Oct 17 at 8:35
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    What exactly do you mean by "horribly stalked and harassed online"? Your friend will need to give [factual] specifics, since conclusory statements would not get any far with the authorities. – Iñaki Viggers Oct 17 at 11:41
  • It might be worth talking to the local police. They won't be able to do anything directly, but they may be willing to put a note on a computer so that if you call in an emergency the dispatcher will see the note and inform any responding officers. Or something. Its going to depend on your local police, but talking to them won't hurt. – Paul Johnson Oct 17 at 16:17
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    It might be worth talking to the local police where the non-US citizen is located. – DavidSupportsMonica Oct 17 at 20:58
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Normally, immigration officials wouldn't be involved in a case like this one.

Normally, criminal court actions are only effective if the defendant can be arrested by a country where the crime was committed or where the crime was directed, or by a country that will extradite the individual following a request made through diplomatic channels.

One way to get there would be to complain to police where the person is located. If you know precisely who it is, and where the person is, this might produce action since someone like that might be a threat the local police care about on the theory that this person might be dangerous to other people as well. Unfortunately, the cases where you are most like to have this information (e.g. stalking and harassment from an ex-spouse or lover) are the cases that local law enforcement where the offender is located is likely to take least seriously.

Another would be to complain to a law enforcement agency (e.g. the FBI) that is able to get the attention of diplomats to bring charges and request extradition, in cases where extradition is available (which depends upon the laws of the offender's country, normally this is only available if the offense would be a felony in the place where the offender is located).

As a practical matter, the nature of the conduct would have to be pretty intense and amount to some sort of terroristic threat before action was taken criminally through diplomatic extradition channels.

Normally, a civil action is only effective if the person to be bound by the order is served with process issued by a court that can have jurisdiction over the individual. Typically, U.S. law would give U.S. courts jurisdiction over wrongful conduct directed at Americans, but if the individual involved is not in the U.S. enforcing the order of a U.S. court might be difficult.

In a domestic situation, one would seek a restraining order or protection order against the offending individual. This could be useful if that person later appears in the U.S., but getting service of process on that individual could be hard.

It might be possible to get an order from a U.S. court applying to the online entity facilitating the harassment by the foreign person to censor that person, but you end up with a whack-a-mole situations where getting an order is hard and as soon as one is obtained the offender can move to another online means of conducting harassment or can operate under an alias that can't definitively be tied to the original offender.

Also what constitutes "horribly stalked and harassed online" is too vague to know if the conduct would constitute action for which a criminal or civil remedy is available. Likewise, it is unclear who certain you are about the identity or location of the offending individual. No legal action is possible without clarity of both of these things.

Bottom line: From a practical perspective, you are pretty much limited to self-help, defensive measures (locking doors, not being alone, not giving out privacy disclosing information) that cramp your life, and to complaints to the administrators of the online forums where this conduct happens.

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  • Thank you for this thorough answer. She is in CA and he is Hungarian. Currently the 8 months of online harassment has been via countless new fake email and social media accounts, and directed toward her & anything she is tied to; her family, her friends & any associations. She suspects that once it is an option with travel & borders, he will be stalking in-person. She is open to any suggested avenues to pursue now to protect herself & everyone's wellbeing. Sounds like best options are defensive measures, and potentially reporting to local police, and to ignore the cyberstalking. – Sue Oct 21 at 3:18

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