Courtesy Stuart Miles
Are you putting your business in the street? Some people cannot help but share and you probably know somebody like that. They tell you where they are and what they are doing. They tell you what they are eating or drinking. And even take pictures of their food and drink.
If you are a Facebook or social media addict you could be putting yourself, family and friends in serious danger if you are not careful.
Criminals will do their homework. They study your Facebook page and Google your name. They accumulate as much information about you that they can and one day they attack. They have enough information about you to convince you they are from the IRS or your bank. Soon your money and maybe even your identity are gone. By watching your Facebook postings criminals know you are out of town for the weekend and break into your home.
In Tulsa, OK a teenage girl was murdered while home alone. A few hours before she died, she tweeted, “Have the house to myself everybody gone.” This could be your child on Facebook or Twitter?
Did the killer see her Twitter feed? Who knows. As a parent or social media user you have to keep in mind AACR Internet Rule #3; The Internet is your window to the world. You can see out; they can see in.
You have to consider how dangerous revealing too much online can be for you and your family. Remember sexual predators use the Internet, or cyberstalk, their victims online long before a physical attack. These predators use every tool at their disposal including “Facebook stalking” their victims. Facebook stalkers constantly check their victims profile page. They gather information about their victim’s love interest, their friends and their social life. Facebook stalkers even read the wall of people they don’t know. This can be a highly effective means of information collection.
Have you ever heard of people who collect Facebook friends? Some people may have thousands of Facebook friends. Some people do this for fun. But some are stalkers. They understand the theory of connection, think six degrees of separation. The more people they have as Facebook friends the more likely they can find someone who knows their victim. They then send a friend request to that person. The victim sees that they have a friend in common and ok’s the friend request. Now the stalker is in their life and has access to everything they put online. That’s why you don’t ‘friend’ the friend of a friend!
Your children could also become the victim of cyberstalking and you need to know the signs. These include;
- Excessive amounts of time on the computer, especially late at night.
- Receiving phone calls late at night, or is making calls to numbers you do not recognize.
- Your child acts suspicious when using the computer closing windows or turning off the computer monitor when you or another parent is nearby.
- Using an email address that you are not familiar with.
- Receiving gifts, mail and packages from someone you do not know.
- Your child becomes withdrawn from family, friends, school, and activities.
These are serious indicators that something is going on in your child’s life. Remember, teenagers are very good at hiding things from parents. Be aware!
The Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that 2 out of every 5 missing teenagers, ages 15 -17-years-old, are abducted in connection with Internet activity. Pedophiles are very busy online. They are very charming and convincing to a vulnerable teenager. The most dangerous online predators feel safe and at ease online believing that Internet anonymity protects them. Pedophiles know how to manipulate children into thinking they are “friends,” and they often succeed in seducing, manipulating, and controlling both children and teenagers.
If you discover your child is a victim of cyberstalking there are steps you can take. These include;
- Contact the harasser one time to let him/her know that the harassment must cease immediately, or you will take further legal action. Neither you or your child should ever respond to any communication from the stalker after that.
- Keep a records of all the cyberstalking including emails and social media postings, text messages etc, in either hard-copy or digital form.
- Report the situation to your Internet Service Provider and consider changing ISPs to stop cyberstalking.
- Shut down your child’s current email account and open a new one without using their real name. Consider using email filters to block the stalker from contacting them.
- Notify the parents of your child’s friends and classmates and school officials of the situation. Cyberstalkers often insert themselves in the child’s circle of friends.
- Report the situation to the local police to see what additional action can be taken.
- Contact your local FBI Computer Crimes Unit. (A complete list can be found here).
- Remove your child’s name from online directories.
- Never agree to meet with the cyberstalker for any reason.
- Never leave your computer logged in unattended. Perform scans for malware and update anti-virus software.
- Make sure your child chooses a good account password and changes it frequently. The password should be at least 7 letters long.
- Review your child’s email signature to make sure it does not reveal anything personal.
- Review your child’s social media accounts. Make sure you know who your child is communicating with and remove any images of your child. Also make sure that your child’s privacy settings are well engaged and that there is no information revealing your home address, phone numbers or any information that reveals your child’s home address, phone number, school or daily schedule.
Now you know.