Cyberstalking and scamming on social networking sites

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Recently, more and more people have been commenting on this blog and saying they’ve met scammers on Facebook, pretending to be British or American soldiers stationed abroad. It seems social networking is turning into a battle ground as well.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, a recent study has revealed that social networking sites have overtaken dating sites when it comes to stalking. Cyberstalkers can target complete strangers on social networking sites such as Facebook and the victims can be both women (60%) and men (40%). Unlike real life stalking that’s often the result of a past relationship or an actual acquaintance, cyberstalking does not depend on the victim having more than a casual acquaintance with the stalker. Sometimes, the stalker can be a total stranger.
Unsurprisingly, cyberstalking has overtaken real life stalking. After all, it’s easier to do and you don’t actually need to know the victim…

This cyberstalking can involve repeated unwanted messages or it can involve serious intimidating and even death threats. It would seem the Internet is the choice of weapon for weirdos who think the anonymity it offers puts them above the law or under the radar.

You can read the Guardian article about the survey here, which offers advice on what to do if you’re being cyberstalked.

But I’d like to offer a different sort of advice. Websites like Facebook are notorious for compromising your privacy in all kinds of ways you’ve never even dreamed of. If you want to protect yourself from stalkers, consider taking the following steps when using Facebook:

* In your privacy settings on Facebook, avoid using the “everyone” setting for sharing anything such as your status updates, photos, etc.. Show as little as possible of your profile to strangers.

* In your “connecting on Facebook” settings (also in the privacy settings), you can decide whether you want everyone to be able to send you a friend request, message you, see your friends’ list, etc. It’s up to you how private you want to be. If you’re happy just being in touch with your friends and their friends, you can stop anyone else from every contacting you or adding you as a friend.

* I know people love all these checking in services, but personally I think they suck. The right to privacy is something that was bought in blood from big brother totalitarian governments. Now whole generations are happily broadcasting their whereabouts to the world without giving it a second thought. Apart from the businesses themselves, the only people who care about the fact that a person’s checked in at a supermarket or a petrol station are obsessives and stalkers. Seriously. I say avoid using these services completely, not just because they’re compromising your privacy but also because any tiny benefits they could give you are totally outweighed by the benefit to the businesses involved and the fact that they are using you for free advertising. Your privacy is precious so don’t sell yourself short.

I know a bar that offers people a free drink if they check in there 15 times. I’d rather stick with a paper punch card or, a radical thought, buy my own drink and maintain my privacy (and dignity). No free drink is worth advertising to the world where I am at any given moment 1984-style.

If you must use these services, for example, Facebook’s one, make sure you limit who can see your check ins (also in the privacy settings). I suggest limiting this to your friends only and choosing your Facebook friends wisely.

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