March 17, 2013

Author Q & A: dot.crime

A new book by York's J.A. Hitchcock offers horror stories of cyber misdeeds.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Jayne A. Hitchcock, a cybercrime expert and victims' advocate, can tell you a lot of scary stories about the Internet.

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Jayne Hitchcock

click image to enlarge

MEET THE AUTHOR

HERE ARE J.A. Hitchcock's upcoming appearances in Maine:

SATURDAY

Maine Open Reads, noon to 2 p.m., Belgrade Public Library, 124 Depot Road, Belgrade. 495-3508; belgrade@belgrade.lib.me.us

MAY 25

Nonesuch Books, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 403 Mariner Way, Biddeford. 282-2638

JUNE 15

Book signing at Sherman's Books and Stationery, 128 Main St., Freeport.

869-9000; (877) 474-3762; shopmaine@shermans.com

HITCHCOCK ALSO teaches online safety for the Salvation Army's Tools for Life program at 297 Cumberland Ave., Portland. For more information, call Mary Irace at 774-4172, Ext. 262. Upcoming dates are:

June 11, 10 a.m. to noon

Aug. 27, 10 a.m. to noon

Nov. 12, 10 a.m. to noon

You could argue that her latest book, "True Crime Online: Shocking Stories of Scamming, Stalking, Murder and Mayhem" (CyberAge Books, $14.95), should be required reading for anyone who's hooked on Facebook and other social media sites.

From casual encounters that lead to years of stalking, to a bizarre underworld of cannibals who go online to find people who want to be eaten (yes, you read that right), Hitchcock has gathered cautionary tales of every stripe into one book.

Hitchcock was born in Saco and lived for a while in New Hampshire. She and her husband, a U.S. Marine, traveled to California, Japan and Maryland before finally settling in York, where they have lived for the past 15 years.

Hitchcock volunteers with the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime and the National Center for Victims of Crime. She conducts law enforcement training seminars on cybercrime, gives lectures at schools and conferences, and has been interviewed on TV shows such as "America's Most Wanted," "48 Hours," "Primetime" and "Good Morning America."

She also serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Cyber Crimes and Criminal Justice, and is president of "Working to Halt Online Abuse" (haltabuse.org). This is her 10th book. 

Q: How did you get interested in this topic? Were you a victim yourself?

A: Yep. Back in 1996, back before cyberstalking was a word, before law enforcement even knew what the heck was going on online, I had just moved back from Okinawa, Japan, to Maryland. I published six books over there, and they do publishing differently, so I was looking for an agent or publisher here. They had newsgroups back then. They didn't have Google or Facebook and all that kind of stuff.

On the writing group, I answered a post from someone claiming to be a literary agency and got them interested in one of my books. They sounded a little off. Something just didn't seem quite right with them. So I posted on the newsgroup, asking if anybody had any dealings with them, and I got people privately emailing me saying they had paid them money. The initial (payment) was a reading fee, and then it was a contract fee, a manuscript fee -- they just kept coming up with fees. One woman paid over $1,400 before she realized it was probably a scam. The agency was supposedly just outside New York City. I contacted the attorney general there and said, "Hey, I know a bunch of writers who are getting scammed. What can I tell them to do?" And they said, "Well, if you can get more victims or a higher dollar amount, then we'll do an investigation."

I posted on the group, "If you paid these people money, let me know. There might be an investigation." And I started getting a bunch of people and put together everything and sent it off to the attorney general's office. That was in September of 1996. Then somebody began impersonating me online, on newsgroups in December, calling people a bunch of idiots. And then in January, they began posting again as me on sadomasochistic and sex-related groups, claiming that I was doing a book about sadomasochistic fantasies and looking for stories, and I could be contacted any time of the day or night, and they listed my home phone number and address.

I started getting phone calls from all over the world. One guy from Germany, he said his name was Dieter and he wanted to learn English and exchange fantasies and left me his beeper number, fax number, office number, home number -- you name it, he gave me numbers. I got scared, thinking, if people are going to call me from all around the world, what's going to stop somebody from knocking on the door? 

(Continued on page 2)

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