Recent example of what can happen:
Here is a story about "why," when online, you should give as
little information about yourself as possible.
The true story about the
events depicted herein leave little room for doubt that this
could happen. Already, stories like this are told by true
victims of online criminals.
Shannon could hear the footsteps behind her as she walked
toward home. The thought of being followed made her heart beat
faster. "You're being silly," she told herself, "no one is
following you." To be safe she began to walk faster, but the
footsteps kept up with her pace. She was afraid to look back
and she was glad she was almost home. Shannon said a quick
prayer, "God please get me home safe." She saw the porch light
burning and ran the rest of the way to her house.
Once inside she leaned against the door for a moment, relieved
to be in the safety of her home. She glanced out the window to
see if anyone was there. The sidewalk was empty.
After tossing her books on the sofa she decided to grab a
snack and get online. There she could talk to strangers
without being afraid. After all, none knew who she really was
and couldn't hurt her.
She logged on under her screen name ByAngel213. Checking her
Buddy List she saw GoTo123 was on.
She sent him an instant message that read exactly like this:
ByAngel213: Hi I'm glad you are on! I thought someone was
following me home today. It was really weird!
GoTo123: You watch too much TV. Why would someone be
following you? Don't you live in a safe neighborhood?
ByAngel213: Of course I do. I guess it was my imagination
cause didn't see anybody when I looked out.
GoTo123: Unless you gave your name out on line. You haven't
done that have you?
ByAngel213: Of course not. I'm not stupid you know.
GoTo123: Did you have a softball game after school today?
ByAngel213: Yes and we won!
GoTo123: That's great! Who did you play?
ByAngel213: We played the Hornets. Their uniforms are so
gross! They look like bees.
GoTo123: What is your team called?
ByAngel213: We are the Canton Cats. We have tiger paws on
our uniforms. They are really cute.
GoTo123: Do you pitch or what?
ByAngel213: No, I play second base. I got to go. My homework
has to be done before my parents get home. I don't want them
mad at me. Bye!
GoTo123: Catch you later. Bye
GoTo123 decided it was time to teach Angel a lesson. One she
would never forget. He went to the member menu and began to
search for her profile. When it came up he highlighted it and
printed it out. He took out a pen and began to write down what
he knew about Angel so far:
Her name: Shannon
Birthday: Jan. 3, 1985
State she resides in: North Carolina
Hobbies: softball, chorus, skating and going to the mall
Besides this information he knew she lived in Canton. She had
just told him. He knew she stayed by herself until 6:30 every
afternoon until her parents came home from work. He knew she
played softball on Thursday afternoons on the school team and
the team was named the Canton Cats. Her favorite number "7"
was printed on her jersey. He knew she was in the seventh
grade at the Canton Junior High School. She had told him all
this in the conversations they had on-line.
He had enough information to find her now. "She'll be so
surprised," he thought, "she doesn't even know what she has
Shannon didn't tell her parents about the incident on the way
home from the ball park that day. She didn't want them to make
a scene and stop her from walking home from the softball
games. Parents were always overreacting and hers were the
worst. It made her wish she were not an only child. Maybe if
she had brothers and sisters her parents wouldn't be so
By Thursday Shannon had forgotten about the footsteps
following her. Her game was in full swing when suddenly she
felt someone staring at her. It was then that the memory came
back. She glanced up from her second base position to see a
man watching her closely. He was leaning against the fence
behind first base and he smiled when she looked at him. He
didn't look scary and she quickly dismissed the fear she had
felt. After the game he sat on a bleacher while she talked to
the coach. She noticed his smile once again as she walked past
him. He nodded and she smiled back. He noticed her name on
back of the shirt. He knew he had found her.
Quietly he walked a safe distance behind her. He didn't want
to frighten her and have to explain what he was doing to
anyone. It was only a few blocks to Shannon's home and once he
saw where she lived he quickly returned to the park to get his
car. Now he had to wait. He decided to get a bite to eat until
the time came to go to Shannon's house. He drove to a fast
food restaurant and sat there until time to make his move.
Shannon was in her room later that evening when she heard
voices in the living room. "Shannon, come here," her father
called. He sounded upset and she couldn't imagine why. She
went into the room to see the man from the Ballpark sitting on
the sofa. "Sit down," her father began, "this man is a
policeman and he has just told us a most interesting story
Shannon moved cautiously to a chair across from the man.
How could he tell her parents anything? She had never seen him
before today! "Do you know who I am Shannon?" The man asked.
"No" Shannon answered.
"I am your on-line friend, 'GoTo123'."
Shannon was stunned. "That's impossible! "GoTo" is a kid my
age! He's 14 and he lives in Michigan!"
The man smiled. "I know I told you all that but it wasn't
true. You see, Shannon, there are people on-line who pretend
to be kids. I was one of them. But while others do it to find
kids and hurt them, I belong to a group of parents who do it
to protect kids from predators. I came here to find you to
teach you how dangerous it is to give out too much information
to people on-line. You told me enough about yourself to make
it easy for me to find you. Your name, the school you went to,
the name of your ball team and the position you played. The
number and name on your jersey just made finding you a
Shannon was stunned. "You mean you don't live in Michigan?"
He laughed. "No, I live in Raleigh. It made you feel safe to
think I was so far away, didn't it?" She nodded. "I had a
friend whose daughter was like you. Only she wasn't as lucky.
The guy found her and murdered her while she was home alone.
Kids are taught not to tell anyone when they are alone. Yet
they do it all the time on-line."
"The wrong people trick you into giving out information a
little here and there on-line. Before you know it, you have
told them enough for them to find you without even realizing
you have done it."
Be careful online. You can talk to and be stalked by complete
strangers anywhere in the world. Some will "travel to meet
you" whether you want to see them or not.
Software to Protect your Kids
An easy solution to these problems is the inexpensive blocking
software readily available today. This
content filtering software
allows parents of all computer skill levels to control which
sites are visited on the Internet. With some additional
software, you can even read IM messages and e-mail. Some
software takes photos of the computer screen and e-mails them
to your computer periodically. This allows you to protect your
kids while you're at work.
As "Internet Kidnapping," cases become more public, more
parents will take an active interest in keeping their kids
safe online. By monitoring their children, parents can make
the Internet a safe place for kids to learn about the world.
Don't think that your children are vulnerable to these
Read about how it actually happens . . .