Chat rooms may seem like relatively safe places to meet people and to carry on conversations because you never have to actually meet the other person. The anonymity of chatting online has definite appeal. However, many people have a false sense of security when they chat online. A motivated predator needs very little information in order to take advantage of you. You may have disclosed personal and identifying information without even realizing it. Use this information to protect yourself.
Filters and firewalls
Filters are extremely popular with people who want to protect themselves and their children from what could be considered objectionable material. Parents can block their child’s ability to chat on sites like MySpace very easily. The theory is that if you can’t access the site, you don’t need to worry about protecting your identity. Additionally, firewalls are useful in preventing prying eyes from hacking into your private conversations. There is nothing wrong with chatting with people that you know and trust; just make sure that you use a firewall or some other means to make sure that you do not have a virtual fly on the wall looking in on your personal conversations.
What’s in a name?
Many individuals, and especially children, cannot see the harm in divulging a little bit of information when they are chatting online. After all, they may think that the odds of someone doing something bad with their information are very low right? Well, it is possible for someone to be frivolous with their personal information and to never see any negative repercussions because of it. However, most would agree that it is better to be safe than sorry. A picture, a name and the name of the town that you live in may be all that a predator needs to commit a crime. Remember also that identify theft is on the rise, and even the most innocent of information can be exactly what a thief needs to take advantage of you.
A predator knows what to say
If someone is looking to get more information about who you are, where you live, your day to day schedule, etc, all they have to do is start with innocent questions. Simple things like asking what your hobbies are can lead to your favorite hang-out spots and to the area that you live in. A predator is skilled at making you feel at ease and will very rarely come right out and ask you for personal information. Therefore it is not only important to decide whether or not you are going to trust strangers at all, but it is also important to be on your guard at all times. Be on the look out for questions that may be being asked for reasons other than to become your friend.
You can’t believe everything you see or read
If you have never personally met the person you are chatting with, you have absolutely no way of knowing whether or not that individual is telling the truth about himself or not. Hundreds of thousands of people falsify their profile information. Some are more innocent than others and say that they weigh less or have a better job than they really do. But there are others who are much more deceitful. Predators can pose as any person that they want. Some of the more frightening possibilities are that a predator can pose as a child and chat with your own children. It doesn’t take much to imagine how dangerous it would be if this deceitful individual then convinced your child to meet him at a private place. You must always be weary of someone you do not personally know.
Think of others
Make sure that you are not compromising the integrity of those who are close to you. Predators sometimes gain their most useful information from individuals other than their intended victim. Make sure that you are protecting the identities of others just as you would safeguard your own.