We at UKHippy take the safety of our members very seriously; while we endeavor to protect people as much as we can, we cannot guarantee your safety when meeting anyone from the Internet - We do not vet our members, so who you chat to or arrange to meet is very much at your own risk.
The following advice has been put together by one of our members as a guide to playing safe on the net; it is not conclusive and should not be treated as definitive. It is simply a list of suggestions to help you not to fall foul of the few who could cause you harm.
The Internet and your safety
We use the internet for all kinds of reasons - shopping, information, friendship, entertainment, banking, work etc. and the list gets longer every day. It has become so much part of our lives that we sometimes forget that, not only can it be used as a powerful tool to make our lives easier and more fun, it can also be used by some people to steal, cheat and lie. This is just a small guideline on how to not fall foul of those people.
Take care what you post on open forums
Remember that open forums can be viewed by the whole World Wide Web. That means that anything you type onto those boards is able to be read by your boss, mother, father, lover, sister, brother, local criminal - Everyone! Also, itís not just available today. Itís there for a mighty long time.
Before you hit that post/submit/reply button ask yourself "Am I sure I want the whole world to know this about me?" and "By posting this am I giving away any information about myself or friends and family that someone can use in a questionable way?"
Please note that some of the forums and features are restricted to members only - but this does not mean you can automatically trust your privacy will never be breached by other members.
Think before you submit any information!
Information gathered on forums can be used in many ways
- ID theft, fraud and privacy abuse
- cyber bullying, cyber stalking and harassment
- sexual predators, con artists and sexual exploitation
You donít want to become a victim of any of those so take care what you post.
Common ways people gather info on you are from introductions, chat games, profiles and from in-depth discussion/help forums.
Introductions need to have as little concrete information about you as possible. Donít name schools/universities or workplaces you attend/ have attended. Donít tell people exactly where you grew up or were born, donít give out your full name, address, telephone number etc. All these facts can be used to build a picture of you for ID theft or harassment.
Chat games are an easy way to fool people into telling you things that otherwise they would not tell you. ID thieves have been known to use these.
Have you ever played the find your porn star name game before - the one where you put the name of your first pet with your motherís maiden name? Well one of the most used questions in banking for security is ďWhat was your motherís maiden name?Ē What about the game that asks you for your full name to work out what you real Hippy name is or the one that works out your Pirate name? Do you see where this is all going?
When you are in an in-depth discussion try not use people and places in your real life as examples to put weight behind your argument. This just gives out way too much info about you that can all be used by someone if they are that way inclined. Help and advice sections on boards can also be used by some to make profiles of you. The type of person you are can be seen very easily. Vulnerable people making posts asking for help may not realise that they are letting themselves become targets for people wishing to exploit their particular weakness.
Just be aware that most of the people that read what you write on an open forum are not people you know in real life. At best they are cyber friends and at worst they are random strangers that you donít even know are reading. They could be collating information on you.
Be careful who you give telephone numbers, email addresses and personal details to. NEVER give out your home address/phone number to cyber friends. Unless you know someone in real life as well as online they are just cyber friendsí not real friends.
Choosing to meet people from the internet
If you decide to meet someone that you have only ever spoken to on the net you need to be aware of a few things. Not everyone is who they seem to be.
- That person that has told you they are a 17 year old girl may turn out to be a balding fat 56 year old man with a whole different agenda from the one they told you they had.
- The 56 year old balding man you talked to on line might be honest about being 56, fat and balding, but they might still have a whole other agenda to meeting you than the one they told you on line.
- Just because they seem nice online, does not mean they are not really a raving lunatic that wants to dig your heart out with a blunt spoon and eat it.
- If the person seems too good to be true, they probably are too good to be true.
- Even if this person is not 56 years old and balding, this does not mean that they are safe - Someone young and female could also be potential trouble.
So how can we safely meet someone from the net for the first time?
- Arrange to meet in a very public place. Never agree to meet at their home or your home, preferably meet them when it is still daylight
- Take someone with you, preferably a big tall body builder. If you canít find a body builder a responsible friend or relative will do.
- Always have a charged working mobile phone with you. Make sure it has credit if it is a pay as you go.
- Tell someone where you are going, who you are meeting and what time you will be back.
- Arrange your own transport to the meeting and have a way of leaving if it all goes wrong.
- Never accept a lift from the person you are meeting up with. Have a local taxi firm number ready in your phone.
- If they have a car then take a note of their registration and be seen to text it to someone. If they are genuine they should not object to you doing this.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, get up and leave. Don't walk away, call a taxi to pick you up, even if it only has to drive you 2 streets away. It stops the person from being able to follow you.
- Donít leave the public place with the person to go ďsomewhere better to talkĒ.
- Do not get drunk/stoned etc.
- Leave a contact number with the person expecting you back home. That way they can call you if they are worried about you not arriving home.
- If you feel any way in danger at anytime in the meet and you feel you cannot safely get away call 999 or 112 and ask for help.
- Make sure you have enough money/credit etc to get home. Do not miss the last bus or train.
- Do not have sex at a first meeting. You never know what the consequences will be. However, if you do decide to have sex make sure you use a condom.
- Have a back up plan - One idea would be to get a friend to call you to "come home quickly because of an emergency", it may take the pressure off of leaving if you are feeling awkward.
Most of these are common sense, but we sometimes forget to do these things when our guard is lowered because we think we know this person from all the online chatting.
Remember a person you have never met in real life and have only talked to online isnít yet a real friend. They are just a cyber friend.
None of this is to say they wonít be just who they said they are on-line, and that you wonít form a strong real life friendship. All of this is just being cautious because sadly out there on the World Wide Web there are some arseholes that sneak up on you pretending to be your friend to get whatever they want from you.
Remember it can take a fair few meetings to really find out their true colours so follow the above advice until you are satisfied you really know them. Do not always trust your instincts, but if you have a bad feeling about someone there is probably a reason for it.
Donít fall victim to those evil few.