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admin2 On March - 9 - 2011

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This article is not about online data backup. It is about an important issue more and more people are encountering with social networking.

A new acquaintance of mine was talking with me about social networking and how he had finally taken the plunge and opened up a Facebook account. 

At first this fellow enjoyed the Facebook experience. But then, much to his horror, he discovered that some anonymous person had begun posting the most vile, repugnant and untrue items about him, taking his photos and modifying them in an obscene manner. Pages were set up dedicated to vilifying him. His friends were sent worrisome messages, all about him.

My new acquaintance had unwittingly acquired a cyber stalker.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, cyber stalking is defined as threatening communication or unwanted advances directed at another person using the internet and other forms of online and computer communications. It can involve the use of chat rooms, email, instant messaging and bulletin boards to repeatedly harass or threaten somebody.

Cyber stalkers hide behind a username, or multiple usernames. They can pose as compassionate friends while their victims share their private fears and feelings about the stalking. They can pose as fellow stalking victims, inviting confidences from their own victims. They can be anyone.

And most scary of all, they can pose as you. They can impersonate their own victims and post hateful messages in chat rooms, inciting anger and retaliation against their victims.

Very often the victim and stalker have had a prior relationship — in real life or online. The stalker is rebuffed or feels rebuffed and the stalking behaviors begin.

Sometimes the stalker is a complete stranger. He obtains a victim’s information off of the Internet and uses it as a starting point. My new acquaintance had posted his age, personal interests and photos on his Facebook account. All of this was used by his stalker.

There are warning signs to watch for to help you recognize a potential cyber stalker.

1.  Too frequent contact. Early on a potential cyber stalker will contact you multiple times per day via email, instant messenger or personal messages on forums. 

2. Intense interest in you. Does somebody online ask you way too many questions trying to elicit personal facts about your private life? 

3. Outside knowledge about you. Does somebody reveal they know things about you that you never shared with them? If they’ve been researching you, that’s a definite warning sign.

4. Online tracking. Cyber stalkers keep track of your every move online. They know where and when you are online. They join everything you join. They post right after you post. It is not a coincidence.

There are further signs that develop: they develop a web page all about you or they begin emailing your friends and family.

You probably have a cyber stalker if after this person’s email is ignored or blocked he bombards you with messages from new email addresses.

If you or someone you know is a victim, it’s important to take steps to ensure your safety, to document the harassment, and to bring about an end to the abuse.

Victims who are not adults should immediately tell an adult they trust about threats and abuse. Telling parents is an excellent idea.

Adult victims should definitely take cyber stalkers seriously. Just because they could be anywhere in the world does not mean they are not close to you.

Change your contact information right away. I know this is a bother, but cancelling your current email account or changing your IM screen name can cut him off.

Do not encourage him to communicate in the vague hope that he’ll reveal his identity. Remove yourself from all contact with him and he may turn his unwanted attentions elsewhere.

Keep all your communications once you have realized you have a cyber stalker. Make sure they are dated and have the sender’s address, even if it’s just an IM screen name. Do not alter them in any way. These communications can be used as evidence if you ever go to the authorities.

You can file a complaint with your Internet service provider (ISP) and your stalker’s ISP. And of course you can file a complaint with the police. 

If you suspect that you have actually met this individual in person, it is important to involve the police.  If your cyber stalker has mentioned details about your home, family, friends, work that he could not have accessed from the Internet, it is probable he has entered your life somehow.

If you feel threatened at all, and fear that this person is in close proximity, beef up security. Add security chains to your doors, get a home security system, and get your computer checked for spyware.



Safeguard your personal info from fraudsters – use online data backup

Wise people run anti-virus software on their computer to ward off the threat of identity theft. Wiser people realize that computers are not the only way that their information is at risk.

Recycling is a good thing and more and more people are willing to toss their discarded paper into recycling bins. They should never assume that nobody is rooting through these bits of paper looking for personal information.

The safest recourse is to shred everything that has any bit of personal information, including junk mail — especially credit card offers.

Credit card offers are a goldmine for fraudsters. They are already filled out with your information and there is very little a fraudster has to add to get a credit card in your name.

Documents with medical information such as doctor bills and receipts are worth shredding. The information included on these could potentially allow someone to obtain prescription drugs under your name.

If you move, be sure to have your mail forwarded to your new address. The new residents probably wouldn’t bother shredding any of your mail or junk mail before tossing.

Stolen wallets and purses are another goldmine for fraudsters. Never carry your Social Insurance card with you. If it ever does get stolen, contact the government immediately and let them know it might be compromised. As well, contact all companies that have issued you a credit card and report the theft.

Stolen cell phones also contain your private information. Password protect your cell phone, and consider installing a remote scrubbing program. This will allow you to log in and erase the phone’s information in the event your phone ends up in a thief’s hands.

Another avenue for fraudsters to obtain your personal information is asking you for it.  Fraudsters are not loath to phone up purporting to be from some business or bank that needs you to grant access to your computer so that they can fix an error or track a mistake. Granting a stranger access to your computer from another location puts all of your stored information at risk, including your passwords to your online accounts.

If you do not know who is phoning you, do not ever give out personal information. Ask for their name and phone number and tell them you’ll call them back. And then check it out. Contact the police if you feel this was a scam.

The best way to protect your personal documents is to use online data backup. Storing them using CollectionMine’s remote backup software allows them to be kept in a safe and secure data centre. 



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