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

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Jayne Hitchcock

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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

Q: What happened to the person who was victimizing you?

A: It turned out to be a husband-and-wife team. The people who ended up finally arresting them -- because all I could do was file a civil suit because there were no laws in place -- was the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. They arrested them in 2000, and they got them on mail fraud, because a lot of the writers had sent checks or money orders through the postal mail.

I did not know at the time that the postal inspection service were bulldogs like that. It turned out the husband had quite a record, and the wife was just nasty. When they went before the judge for sentencing, the judge looked at him and said, "If I could give you more time, I would, for what you did to this woman." He could only give him eight months in jail and three months probation, and he gave her three years probation because she had no criminal record. 

Q: Is law enforcement more sophisticated about this kind of thing now?

A: A majority are. When it comes down to the victims, there's luck of the draw, hoping that somebody in the department, whether it's local, county or state, know what they're doing or they have somebody who knows what they're doing. And then if they end up going to court, it's hoping that the judge understands.

I just had a woman I was in touch with last week, and she ended up having her case thrown out of court because the judge didn't understand how the Internet could be used against anybody -- even though the two people involved confessed, said that yes, they had been bothering her online and harassing her online. And the judge said, "I just can't see it. Stay off the Internet." And tossed it out. 

Q: What are the three biggest mistakes people make online that compromise their security?

A: That they're too trusting. They're looking at a computer screen. They don't see a face, they don't hear a voice. They don't know who they're dealing with. They're believing what they're being told, and believing they're in touch with that person. 

Q: Anything else? Are there practical things you can do?

A: The best thing to do, especially if you're on Facebook or other social networking sites, is to make sure that the people you are friends with are really friends that you know, not somebody that you went to high school with years ago and are not really in touch with.

That was one of the cases I wrote about in the book, where she posted on Facebook that she was going to a concert that night and came home and found out that somebody had broken into her house. But luckily, her laptop caught video of it, and it turned out to be a guy that she friended that she used to go to high school with, but she didn't really know him.

He saw the post, and it wasn't very hard to find her. So be very, very wary. And if you still want to post, keep it generic or wait until after the event and say, "Hey, I went to see Bruce Springsteen last night. It was a great concert." Don't post that you're going to be away. 

Q: What's the strangest story you've run across? That chapter on the cannibals was pretty weird.

A: (Laughs.) Every media person I speak to, they talk about that. That's the one I get asked about the most, and it just cracks me up. 

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