LinkedIn Lurker: Man spams women with unwanted emails

LinkedIn Lurker: Man spams women with unwanted emails »Play Video

TIGARD, Ore. - A West Linn man appears to be targeting dozens of local women with repeated messages, leaving them feeling harassed but helpless to stop it.

The victims say the contact started on social media and has escalated over time.  Some women have received phone calls, and at least one woman called police when the stranger showed up to her workplace.

"I made sure to wear sneakers the next day instead of my boots in case I needed to get up and run," the victim said.  She's asked KATU not to reveal her identity because she's afraid. But said she wanted to talk to let other women know what's happening.

Another victim, Alyssa Roehrenbeck, who works from her home in Tigard running a small production company, described the repeated emails as frightening and strange. 

"The scariest part of it all was that he seemed to be picking a very specific group of people," she said. "I think all women."

Her company relies on social networking sites.

"I provide a lot of online content for businesses, so they need to be able to find me online," she said.

But for the first time, she wants nothing more than to be left alone.

"I was nervous, and if someone came to deliver something at the door, I was double checking to make sure who it was or not answering," she said.

She said she started to feel afraid in January when she first received repeated emails from Brian.

The emails often read, "I need a job" or "I hate you." One read, "My nickname was hardcore in the UO dorms." And there were several invites to connect on LinkedIn.

The emails would often come four at a time, and they wouldn't stop even when she blocked him.

"He kept changing email addresses," Roehrenbeck said, adding that LinkedIn kept deleting his account but he kept creating new ones.

Then she got a different kind of email from another victim who noticed Brian's emails were going to hundreds of other people. All of them appeared to be women. So the victims began an email chain of their own and figured out how he first got their email addresses.

"Then we kind of all started putting the story together, how he farmed them all off of LinkedIn," Roehrenbeck said.

KATU uncovered at least 11 police reports filed locally about Brian in the last year that detail how he emailed, called or showed up at the women's workplaces.

Police have not made an arrest.

"That's the most frustrating part about it," Roehrenbeck said. "The response we kept getting back from police was 'Well, you know, we appreciate everyone's concern, I guess we're a little concerned about it too, but there's nothing we can really do.'"

The woman who did not want to be identified came face to face with Brian when he opened her office door in Portland, yelled at the people inside and then ran away.

Both Portland and West Linn police confirm to KATU that Brian has a mental health condition. Many of his victims know that, too, but they want him to get help before it's too late.

"Maybe he hasn't been violent in the past. But that's what you always hear: I would never imagine 'so and so' would have done that, and it's like after the tragedy," said the woman who did not want to be identified.

Brian has worked with experts at Clackamas County Mental Health in the past but no one would say if the county is doing anything to help him now.

At least one victim contacted them in January when she started getting Brian's emails. She hasn't heard back.

When contacted by KATU News, Clackamas and Multnomah County health services referred a reporter to law enforcement.

"And that's the problem with the mental health system," said Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson. "If it's a criminal act, they kind of defer – go to jail – it doesn't help the problem. The underlying problem is a mental health issue. And can they force him into treatment? That's another chapter of this story."

At least three local police departments said they've contacted Brian and warned him, but he's not technically breaking the law.

"Clearly the contact is unwanted," said Simpson. "But is it threatening? You're getting into an area where you're trying to predict future behavior with laws (and) it's sticky."

Brian's family declined to comment for this story. Neighbors said they weren't aware of any problems. His former landlord even called him a model tenant.

But the women are still nervous. Since KATU News started looking into this story, some of the women said they haven't heard from Brian anymore. But Roehrenbeck said she's still getting messages.

Since Brian hasn't committed a crime, KATU News is not fully identifying him but is reporting his first name so people will be able to recognize his emails if they get one.

There are some things people can do if this happens to them but they have to be the one to take action before police can.

  • First, keep records of every harassing email and phone call you get. This becomes your proof.
  • Then be very clear with that person that you don't want to be contacted and keep records of that correspondence as well.
  • If it still doesn't stop, you can then fill out a stalking protective order at your county courthouse. The judge can approve that fairly quickly. It will then make it illegal for your harasser to contact you.
  • So once the stalking order is in place police can make an arrest if it happens again. You can also try to press charges through the district attorney’s office but that process could take six months.

LinkedIn wouldn't comment specifically about Brian or his profile but said members can flag or report inappropriate posts or profiles. The company will review them and will take action if it finds the user is violating its terms of service.

"Misuse of the Services includes inviting other Users with whom you do not know to connect; abusing the LinkedIn messaging services; creating multiple or false profiles; using the Services commercially without LinkedIn’s authorization, infringing any intellectual property rights, violating any of the Do's and Don'ts listed in Section 10, or any other behavior that LinkedIn, in its sole discretion, deems contrary to its purpose,” the company's user agreement says.