Please be aware.....Did you know?
Many predators are skilled impersonators, and can mimic other individuals to perfection.
Forums and chat can be great places to get information or advice, share a hobby or meet people. You can even find support groups for chronic illness or abuse. Most forums have a chat room attached to their topic, where folks can meet, listen to guest speakers or simply just chat. The best forums are well run by experienced moderators that keep a watchful eye out for troublemakers.
The proliferation of sex related forums is much more problematic. Lonely people hoping to find the "right" mate, often chat in these places. And it is here that often, the worst crimes are committed and the most severe damage is done. This is the true predators paradise. Pedophiles seeking minors, lonely people, the weak and vulnerable, often haunt these rooms, hunting victims.
Minors have very little true protection from these individuals or indeed the forums themselves. Yes, most ask for age sex and location, but.. anyone can say they are ANYTHING, who can tell? And, certainly if moderators suspect a minor may be in the room they either request they leave or ultimately "boot" them. But by that time, through the private message features, contact with the instigator has already been made.
If you’ve been victimized, stalked or harassed in their rooms, it takes a proactive approach on your part, and pristine documentation to get them to take action. Abuse must often go on for an extended length of time to get results, or law enforcement must get involved. The ultimate responsibility for your safety or that of your minor children rests with you.
Here are some suggestions:
Don’t assume you "know" the person you are chatting with. You cannot assume gender, age, looks or occupation based on chat, or location for that matter. Predators are very, very adept at masking e-mail addresses, locations, and use other methods to keep you from finding them.
Never give out personal information in chat. Avoid giving out information about minor children, grandchildren or personal finances. Don’t post public photos of them either. Pedophiles often use them on child porn sites, exposing your little ones to unneeded danger.
NEVER, ever send money to someone you don’t know. One woman who was victimized, will not report out of shame what happened to her. She lost $20,000 to her cyber lover--a man she never met in person. In addition, he thoroughly destroyed her reputation on the net.
Be aware that having cybersex may be a set up for extortion. Using a webcam for this purpose is extremely dangerous and very foolish. Skilled porn site operators will often offer tapes of your activities, without your permission on their sites.
An adept con-artist (using the term “artist” very loosely) can even take a head shot of you and splice it on another body and make it appear as if you are engaging in these types of activities, even if you’ve never thought of doing something like that.
Understand that skillful predators can also elicit certain words of a sexual nature or connotation from you and create dialog from them you never had. This perhaps is the most frightening scenario. Many dangerous criminals do this to control their victims, by threatening to "use" this created dialog or even photos publicly. If this happens to you, you must not give in to it. Go immediately to your local police department and report it. In most major cities, the police have a high tech crimes unit. Use them.
Chat protocols using IRC, or Internet Relay Chat, are extremely dangerous. They offer a highway straight into your computer. They also give skilled hackers the ability to track your movements in chat or elsewhere. Already they are wreaking havoc by stealing ID‘s, impersonating others, spoofing, and other forms of malicious behavior. Exodus, Jabber, Mirc and PIRC are all unprotected IRC-based chat systems.
AOL owned ICQ (I Seek You), is a very popular instant messaging system. It is IRC based, but does offer a firewall, as does ***** and Windows Messenger. These applications are great for on-the-fly meetings, quick chat or even leaving messages. Just be sure not to leave them running when through with your session. Close them down so they are not sitting open in your system tray. This is very important, if you have broadband cable or DSL, or what’s referred to as “an always on connection“.
Being safe means being aware. Like anything else in life, most trouble can be prevented by being an intelligent consumer. Chat can be a fun and relaxing experience, if you just simply remember that you never really know who you’re talking to and adjust your chat accordingly. Some wonderful friends can be found online, some can even be met in "real life“, as a result. It is up to us, to stop the predators from ruining what should be a safe enjoyable experience.
Please be aware of the information, and with whom, you choose disclose via Private Messages. Remember people may not be who they seem to be.
• Be cautious of what information you give out (name, age, phone, address, etc.)
• Be cautious of meeting individuals for the first time
• Be prepared to have a plan of action
One must remain constantly vigilant to secure one's own safety!
Be Careful. Don't let yourself be a victim!