A Toronto woman who has been on the receiving end of thousands of venomous text messages says she’s powerless to do anything to stop it.
Kim – who asked that we not use her last name – hasn’t been able to relax since mid-April. That’s when her phone started buzzing with hate-fuelled text messages.
“They started out tame, basically giving me information about my then-boyfriend, telling me he was cheating on me and stuff like that,” she explains.
But they quickly escalated.
“Kill yourself and maybe I will f*** myself just for fun,” one reads.
“You still alive b**** face? Damn I thought you killed yourself.”
“The b**** lives. Haven’t killed yourself yet?” reads another one.
The 40-something administrative professional has received thousands of messages like this – all from different, unfamiliar numbers. She blocks a phone number but the venomous messages just continue from another. And they come at all times of day and night – some at 3 a.m., others at 11 a.m., some in rapid-fire succession, sometimes with hours in between.
She thought about changing her number, but because of the nature of her job and her social activities, her mobile number is relatively accessible.
“Besides, they seem to know where I live – they even texted me my unit number,” she tells CityNews, while clutching three thick file folders filled with hard copies of last month’s messages.
“There’s no way to stop this and because there’s no law to trace or stop this and because most of these are sent though apps that are on your computer or you can download for free, there’s little that can be done about it.”
Its called spoofing and there are dozens of apps available for download on the App store and Google Playstore. The apps allow users to send text messages from their phones and make it appear as though its from another real – or fake – phone number. In some cases, users can even predetermine the time the messages are sent.
Although the practice is heavily regulated in the U.S., it is is absolutely legal in Canada. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has rules in place for “nuisance” and “unsolicited calls” but they tend to be focused on telemarketers.
The CRTC did not respond to our request for information regarding plans to expand limitations to text messages.
“I went to the police after it had been going on for about four weeks and they said there was nothing they could do,” Kim explains. Although she claims she was being harassed by these text messages, she responded to many of them in an attempt to defend herself and get them to stop.
“How do you ignore someone who is telling you to kill yourself on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day? How do you ignore someone who is telling you ‘you’re the worst human being on earth’, that you deserve everything that’s coming to you?”
“Absolutely do not respond to the messages,” cautions Toronto Police Const. Craig Brister. He advises recipients to send one message in response, advising the sender that they don’t want to communicate with them and that the messages are unwelcome. If the messages continue, Brister says police can then pursue criminal harassment charges.
“A lot of people when they are using these apps think they have complete anonymity, They don’t,” Brister says.
Police have several investigative tools at their disposal to track down the senders including judicial authority to access the service’s records.
Last week, she followed police’s advice but the messages haven’t stopped. She says she’s received several dozen since she advised them to stop. She’s meeting with police Monday in an effort to get them to stop but that won’t repair the damage that’s been done to her psyche.
“The stress is overwhelming. I’m very depressed. It leaves you in a place you don’t want to be.”