The Internet is an opportunity for you to interact with people. It provides a communication link to businesses, entertainment, and education. Through the Internet you can interact with people from other towns, cities, and countries. You can learn about other cultures, customs and lifestyles. It is an opportunity to make new friends and learn more about the world in which we live.
However, the Internet by design is an anonymous media. This aspect can make it easy for someone to use the Internet for criminal means. Because you are 'speaking' with someone via your computer, it is nearly impossible to verify many things about that person. These may include:
The Person's Identity - The Person with whom you are speaking may not be using their real name. It is possible with some Internet Service Providers (ISP's) to check the account information of someone you've had contact with. However, that person may have been using someone else's account or may have provided false information to the ISP.
The Person's Description - We often take for granted the ability to see the person we are speaking with. However, on the Internet nothing can be verified. You can not use your eyes to verify the person's age, race, or even gender.
The Person's Location - On the Internet it is very easy for someone to say they are one place, when in reality they could be around the corner or across the country.
The Person's Intentions - Most people use the internet for honest and honorable intentions. However, someone who exploits the Internet, especially criminals and con artists, can seem very straightforward at first, but they are experts at manipulation. They use confidence-scams, or even just friendly conversation, to make you believe what they want you to believe. Then they have you act on that belief.
Connection Security - Internet security is very important and new technologies are being developed everyday to ensure your protection. However, there are persons out there who know how to intercept communications. Your communication with a known friend or acquaintance could be seen by others. There is also no guarantee that the person you are 'speaking' with is acting alone or uses good security with your information.
Common sense tempered with caution is still your best protection. Listed below are some safety tips you should use when communicating on-line:
1. Do not give out any personal information, home address or phone number. If you are using a 'nickname' don't give out your real name to anyone you don't know. If you are listed in the phone book, they can use it to find you.
2. Do not give anyone your account password. No legitimate and reputable ISP will send you a message or e-mail asking for your password or account information. Many hackers know how to send you messages that appear to be from your ISP. If you receive one of these messages contact your provider immediately!.
3. Do not give out any personal account information such as internet account or personal financial accounts (credit card or checking/saving accounts) until you are absolutely sure of their credibility and connection security.
4. Do not arrange a personal meeting with anyone you have met on the Internet unless, and until, you are able to verify their true identity and can arrange the following:
· Meet in a public place that is well lighted and busy.
· Meet during busy business hours and not close to closing or after dark.
· Arrange your own transportation to and from the meeting.
· Bring a friend; Double-date. Do not meet the person alone!
A stranger you meet on the Internet is just like a stranger you meet in a bar, restaurant, or on the street!! Use the same precautions you use in these situations, when meeting people on the Internet!!
If you do have suspicions about someone you may have spoken with on the Internet, or if you have in someway been offended or threatened, contact your service provider immediately. Give them as much information about the situation as possible. This should include any contact information, such as on-screen name, account information (name, address, phone, account number) and/or e-mail address. You should also be straight-forward as to how you were offended or threatened. Most ISP's provide on-line information on reporting such incidents. Be familiar with your provider's procedures.