I read this report of the murdered Cynthia Osokogu, may her soul rest in peace, and chills went over me. She went missing in July and her body was found last week in a Festac Morgue after she had been strangled to death by her Facebook friends and abandoned in a hotel. Several people, including those who may have killed her, have been arrested. Hopefully, they will reveal details of their methods so others can beware of criminals who utilize internet anonymity to perpetuate atrocities on innocent people.
Personally, I love social networking, being a bit shy myself and finding that I needed the grassroots publicity after choosing indie writing as a career. I also love meeting the people I get to know on the internet and exploring some of our similarities and differences in lively discussions. I am equally one of those, getting to over 15% of American couples, who met their significant others online. When I blogged earlier about online romance becoming lasting love, I actually listed internet privacy and safety as an advantage, albeit a double edged one to be careful of.
In all honesty, it wasn't as if I was paying to much attention to these things when I met Atala. Luckily, we had known each other anonymously for a year by then, and he had been a member of the forum for years before that. Because we met on a message board, there were several other people involved so I got to see a dynamic version of him just like in real life. And because I admired him, I went through some of his previous posts in the archives to check for character and consistency. I wanted to know what he had said to other people, even before I joined the site.
I use this method even today on Facebook, and sometimes on Twitter. When I add people, or when some people try to chat me up, I take those few seconds or minutes to visit their profile and see who they say they are, and what their conversations with others are. This determines my interaction with them, and in some cases whether I need to block them. There are red flags for me, people who do not even bother to check my profile before chatting with me, those who call me queen, baby, sexy, madam, or anything other than my name. I am very careful of sycophants and flattery.
I could go on and on but to recap, the safety tips I consider crucial for meeting people through social networking and online dating are as follows;
- Do not believe whatever people say online, especially about themselves.
- Do not give out your personal information, like address, phone number, BB Pin, what you do, etc, until you're comfortable.
- Even emails are private, especially if they contain your real name or birthday. Continue using the messaging service of FB, DM on Twitter, or private messages on a website or dating service.
- Be honest. This makes it easier to stick to your convictions and let some people go, especially when they begin to exhibit some strange characteristics or trickery.
- Do not be embarrassed or bullied into things you don't want to do
- Do not be hurried, take your time to really know who you're dealing with. Look through their past posts or status updates, if they flirt or use inappropriate language, beware. Google them if you need to.
- Talk to other people about the serious people you meet online, especially with online dating, discuss what they do and say to you. You might be able to get a better perspective, in case you're already emotionally involved.
- When you want to meet new people, do it with a friend you already have or in a very public place. If someone insists on meeting you alone, at their house, or sleeping over at yours, that is a red flag.
- Let other people know when you're meeting someone new. Tell them the person's name, and as much information as you have including emails exchanged, text or chat records. Let the person you're meeting know you're doing this.
- Do not be coerced into helping anyone break the law, all in the name of love or romance. If you have proof someone you know online is scamming or defrauding others, don't keep quiet because he/she is not doing it to you yet. Report them to the authorities.
Let's be careful peeps. What other tips do you use to keep safe online?
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