Internet Safety Series – False identities

It’s the silly season! And that usually means lots of socialising (both on and offline) and oportunities to meet new people.

Before you send some Christmas cheer over the net to those you know and those you don’t, we’d like to share a few words of wisdom, all in the interests of keeping you safe.

A computer and an internet connection can effectively connect you to more than 360 million people in an instant. If you’re open to making friends, you can find yourself striking up a relationship with a complete stranger across the other side of the world in no time.

Before you divulge too much information, have a think about who this person is. Is he really a dark and handsome single Spanish guy with a sports car? Is she really a hot blonde model who is great with kids? There is never an easy way to make sure a person is who they say they are, but the increasing popularity of social networking sites like Myspace, Facebook, Flickr and Youtube allow you to make the matches necessary and be your own super sleuth.

It’s never nice to think someone could be lying to you (especially someone you’ve invested a lot of effort, time or emotion into), but practicing a bit of caution is easy enough.  While you’re talking to someone who you can’t be 100 percent sure is legit, make sure to not reveal any personal information and never cough up your hard earned cash- despite how legitimate they seem. Remember- if it seems too good to be true- it probably is! If you think the time is right for a meeting, meet in a public place. This knowledge should by now be engrained in society but there are still many cases every year of people being lured into dangerous situations.

Take Carly Ryan’s case for example- this 15-year old who fell prey to a perverted middle-aged man posing as his ’20-year-old son Brandon’. Carly formed an online relationship with ‘Brandon’ which one day lead to the real man, 47-year-old Shane, turning up on her doorstep and attempting to form a relationship with the unwilling teen. After rejecting his advances the man lured Carly to Victor Harbour and killed her. Victorian-based Shane was later convicted for the crime and it was discovered he was operating under more than 200 false online identities.
Shane is just one of thousands (maybe millions) of online predators.

While Carly may have been a somewhat naive teenager, these kinds of online predators will target anyone from teens to grans. Just last week a Perth widow was left bankrupt, homeless and unemployed after falling prey to a romantic scammer. Already lonely and vulnerable, the woman became involved in a “business opportunity” with the “Casanova” con man- giving him $600,000. He took her money and later disappeared back into cyberspace- untraceable, prompting the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission revelation that Australians lost $6.5 million last year through romantic scams.

We’d like to think that many of our customers are savvy enough to avoid such situations but it’s easy to throw caution to the wind in the whirlwind of new relationship. By taking just a few precautions online there’s no reason to not enjoy the internet and the world of people it connects you to. Click here to wise up on internet safety. Stay safe people.

Merry Christmas!

Beck Moonen – Super Dooper Safe Cyber Surfer

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