I can remember years ago getting into heated discussions with folks who conveniently sat behind a keyboard. On just about every subject and with a wealth of knowledge, as an expert.
I would come to find out that many of these commandos were, in the immortal words of R. Lee Ermey “disgusting, fat bodies”. In other words they weren’t what they appeared to be.
Why do I bring this up, recently two friends of mine have found themselves embroiled in a major internet drama. One with empty promises, false friendships and privacy violations. Luckily the damage was minimal and steps have been taken to ensure personal security. It does warrant a review of personal security protocols. In today’s internet sensitive world, it is easy to be scammed, duped or even swindled.
So, how did this start, innocently enough. Harmless messages where rapport is established, trust is gained. First off, it’s ok to trust to a certain level, but verify who your talking to is actually who they say they are. That’s the easiest and most important step.
Actually, let me backup a little bit. If you don’t want people to know something about you, then don’t put out in the internet. No matter how “secure” the group, message or system is you should assume that it will eventually see the light of day. If you don’t want that to happen, then don’t send it. It’s just that simple. Next, if you participate in the social media scene recognize there are predators of all sorts lurking in the shadows. They could be sexual predators, but they could also be foreign governments or even terrorists. That’s a real concern, more than most folks recognize.
In this case, what was happening was someone was “friended” by someone who had an established reputation. Then the new friend began to friend more friends through the perceived association with the original friend. My suggestion on dealing with this is two fold. First, you need to have various levels of “friends”. Inner circle of Family, next circle of known friends and outer circle of acquaintances and lastly unknowns. Based on the interconnectivity of this new friend if they are in the inner circle, but you don’t really know them it may not be a big deal to friend them. If however, they are an acquaintance or an unknown then don’t friend them or at the very least confront them on how they know you and why they want to friend you.
So, back to the original point. Once friended if request to message or dialogue comes up proceed with caution. Many messages are harmless in nature, a “thank you” for friending. Others could be a gateway to further conversations. Weigh your actions off the level of their friendship. It’s one thing to be polite and not want to be rude, but it’s another thing to follow basic PERSEC protocol. If they are offended by your actions then you didn’t have to go far to see their true colors.
Other red flags seem obvious, but I’ve got to say it anyhow. If there is a request for the exchange of photographs…STOP. Take a second or longer to really think it through. Remember once you send that photo out, there is no coming back.
While technology can work against you here, it can also work for you. If you have questions about this person or something doesn’t seem right, but you are compelled to continue request to have a video chat. A sure way to confirm the person matches the pictures is a face to face, but that is not always possible so video chats are the next best thing.
Again, it seems obvious, but you should never give out your personal information or information about your family. Keep that close to the chest, again if they are offended, then they saved you the hassle. Stay safe out there.