ss_blog_claim=27c167cdb8f8a240a14959527b4317db Trolls, Flame Wars & CyberStalkers: May 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Case# 69 Facebook Harasser Hounds Woman So Much She Moves Away
By Karon Kelly

(U.K.) A TERRIFIED mum was hounded out of her home by threats made on a social networking site by a woman who had already attacked her.

Danielle Rodgers took her children out of school and moved away from her family and friends because of her fear.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Miss Rodgers had been attacked by Roxanne Fox during a night out with friends in South Shields on January 31.

During the incident, Miss Rodgers was punched in the face up to five times and kicked in the legs as she shouted for help.

The day after the attack, Fox turned up at the home of Miss Rodgers's father and warned she was still "going to get her", the court heard.

In the 48 hours which followed, Miss Rodgers – who was "friends" with Fox on Facebook – received a series of threats on the Internet site.

James Adkin, prosecuting, told the court: "They were arguably vitriolic and definitely contained threats of further violence.

"She said it was going to be a 'hospital job' next time. She would find out where she was living, and that she had been looking for her and that it was not over, essentially."

Fox had attacked Miss Rodgers and her friend Danielle Taylor after a chance meeting as they all left Vogue nightclub in Anderson Street turned into a row.

While Miss Rodgers was punched and kicked, her friend Miss Taylor tried to intervene but was poked in the eye when Fox grabbed at her face.

Meanwhile, Fox's pal Louise Seales hit Miss Rodgers's other friend Judith Elliott over the head with a wine bottle, causing a lump and a cut.

Miss Elliott's daughter Kirsty Laing was also injured in the alteraction.

Fox, 28, of Prince Edward Road, South Shields, admitted affray and harassment.

Seales, 28, of Steward Crescent, South Shields, admitted assault causing bodily harm and common assault.

Gavin Doig, defending mum-of-two Fox, said the Facebook messages continued for just two days after the incident.

Mr Doig said: "They were empty words and nothing more, unpleasant words, but no actions followed from the threats."

Kevin Smallcombe, defending Seales, said the mum-of four has shown remorse.

Mr Recorder Richard Woolfall sentenced Fox to 20 weeks' imprisonment suspended for two years with supervision.

He also made a restraining order banning her from having any contact with Miss Rodgers for five years.

The Judge told Fox: "So bad was the impact on her, she has left her home, her family and her friends because she doesn't feel safe anymore living where she has been for some time."

Seales was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment suspended for two years with supervision.

The judge said: "The pair of you should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves."

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Investigated by yngathrrt @ 1:54 PM
Link To The Evidence| 0 Notes
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Case# 68 Peter Berry - Rogue Romeo & Internet Seducer
By Angela Levin

Sara Terry claims she wasn’t really looking for someone to love when she agreed to her friends’ suggestions to try internet dating.

But when an email landed in her inbox from a man who seemed to be her mirror image, she admits her pulse began to race.

They had a similar view of life, enjoyed the same sports and both were dog owners with much-loved Labradors.

So it was no surprise that, when she met Peter Berry a few weeks later, his charm, wit, impeccable manners and soft green-blue eyes melted her heart. What’s more, the feeling seemed mutual. ‘Wow!’ he texted her straight after they parted. ‘I cannot believe we have so much in common.’

Within a couple of weeks he had proposed marriage and moved in. ‘I felt I had met the right man,’ she says. ‘He was so warm and funny.’

Today, eight months later, she is alone, a stone lighter and £35,000 the poorer, a victim of one of the most prolific fraudsters ever to be dragged before the British courts.

For 20 years Peter Berry has made a specialty of preying on single women in their 30s and 40s.

Using newspaper adverts and internet dating sites he seduced then fleeced them.

The total amount of money he has stolen is incalculable, much like the scale of emotional damage he has wreaked.

No one knows how many women he has conned, either, but the victims probably number in the hundreds.

So peculiarly unpleasant is his style of operation that most of them remained silent out of embarrassment.

He took £35,000 from his first wife and left his second, the mother of his child, bankrupt. She is now in hiding to avoid contact with his family.

Berry has helped himself to five-figure sums from fiancees in America and girlfriends in Europe, including £28,000 from a girlfriend in Tayside.

He has even taken £100,000 from his mother. Nothing, it seemed, could stop him, as he moved from city to city, country to country in search of fresh victims – until, that is, Sara Terry decided to take him on.

With the help of the police in Cornwall, she mounted a dogged pursuit of a man who also uses the names John Keady, Taz Keady and even sometimes calls himself ‘doctor’.

Last month, he appeared at Truro Crown Court pleading guilty to eight counts of deception and fraud involving eight separate victims, including Sara.

The investigating officers believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.

‘There could be hundreds more victims,’ says Detective Constable Derek Farrow, who led the case against Berry.

‘Many, who are high-powered lawyers, GPs, fund managers, senior civil servants and businesswomen, haven’t wanted to press charges in case it affected their careers.

‘I believe that Berry is an accomplished, cold and calculating villain who could easily have taken more than £1million.

‘He is just brilliant at gaining people’s confidence and creating an image of a successful, affluent man.’

So brilliant, in fact, that he even persuaded someone like Sara. An articulate and attractive 42-year-old divorcee, she would not seem an obvious ‘victim’.

Like many women of her age, though, she is fully occupied. She looks after her young children on the South Coast and works in a chandler’s.

So, like countless others, she found it easier to click on a dating website at a time which suited rather than attempt to meet suitable men in crowded bars or clubs.

This is how she found herself on a website called Fitness Singles in October 2008.

‘I love challenging sports and thought I would meet a more genuine person than someone who just wanted a date or two,’ she says with a rueful smile.

‘I didn’t upload any photographs on my profile but said I enjoyed sailing, horse riding and had a dog.

'Pete emailed that he was 40 – he was actually three years older – a very successful business consultant and interested in the same sports as me.

'He even had a photograph of him sailing on his profile.’

After weeks of increasingly chatty emails, Sara agreed on a date at nearby Langstone Harbour, along the coast from Portsmouth.

Physically he was no Casanova. ‘He was 6ft 2in, weighed about 20 stone and looked like the cartoon character Shrek,’ she says.

‘But he had such warm eyes, we had so much to talk about, he was so interested in me that, to my surprise, I found him very attractive.

‘He was attentive, flattering and very funny, which are all the qualities a woman likes.’

A second meeting, a walk on a beach with their two Labradors, went even better and on the third date he asked if he could come to her home, a detached property in a picturesque Hampshire village.

He also told her that although he was in Cornwall looking after his widowed mother, he was planning to relocate to Hampshire to be closer to London and his work.

‘I agreed because the children were spending the day with their father,’ she says.

‘Then, late in the afternoon, he told me he was asthmatic and having trouble breathing.

‘He said that he didn’t have very good lungs because he had fallen out of boats so many times and that if he went to hospital he knew from experience they would keep him in for at least a week, which would wreck a business deal.

'Nor was he well enough to drive five hours to Cornwall. He even started crying as he said “please don’t make me go”.’

She shrugs. ‘I agreed he could stay and for the next five days he had me running around after him. We shared a bed, but didn’t have sex.

'He also said he wanted to marry me and I felt really excited. We had so many common interests, I felt I had met the right man.’

Why did this remarkable turn of events fail to ring alarm bells? She has no ready answer, although it is possible that, in her heart, she really wanted to settle down, and shut her eyes to the danger signs.

'He also said he wanted to marry me and I felt really excited.’

She continues: ‘He then left for Cornwall but returned a few days later and just moved in. I didn’t question it because he overwhelmed me by organising one activity after another.

'I wasn’t working at the time and he said he was enjoying a break after several successful business deals so we spent lots of time sailing.

‘He taught me how to kayak, which I loved. He also said he wanted to buy a house for us and we went round looking at several £3million-plus properties.

'I admit that I was smitten and quite overcome.’

It was during this time that she slept with him. But shortly afterwards he began giving her mixed messages.

‘On the one hand he was tactile, but then told me he had a low sex drive and kept making excuses for us not to be physically together.

'He talked about his strong Catholic background, which I later discovered had been exaggerated, and also claimed his eczema was playing up and that it was painful to touch me.

'I didn’t like to make a fuss as there are more important things than sex, but I was also concerned as I didn’t want a non-physical relationship.

‘He began going out in the evening. He told me he was attending business meetings but I later discovered he was seeing other women.’

Just before Christmas 2008, she took her children on a family holiday with her former husband, a property developer, but agreed that Berry could stay in the house. Worse still, she lent him her credit card.

‘I had asked him several times what he wanted as a Christmas present but it was only late on Christmas Eve that he finally suggested a kayak.

I thought it was a brilliant idea but as I didn’t have time to sort one out suggested he did the research and put the cost on my credit card.’

Not only did he buy a kayak he also took out an annual subscription to Zoosk, another online dating site.
‘He also managed to work out details of my two bank accounts,’ she says.

‘He phoned the bank while I was away, pretending to be me, and put up my credit limit.

Because I use direct debit as much as possible I wasn’t in the habit of checking my bank statements, something I now realise was quite wrong.’

'I know not to sign something you don’t read but we were engaged and living together so I did.'

On her return, he became more daring, claiming he wanted to take her on an adventure holiday for her birthday.
‘He said I had to sign a personal liability disclaimer for the travel company but wouldn’t show me the details as he wanted to keep the destination secret.

'I know not to sign something you don’t read but we were engaged and living together so I did.

'I later discovered it was a loan application to the bank for £15,000.’ She is currently paying it off at £400 a month for 47 months.

In mid-April, her purse and credit cards went missing and she at last became suspicious.

On impulse she rang to check the balance on her current accounts and credit cards.

‘I was told that each of my two bank accounts was about £1,000 overdrawn and that I owed about £9,000 on my credit cards.

I felt my whole life had stopped. I immediately cancelled the cards and when the bank employee said, “What about the loan?” I replied, “What loan?” When they told me I could hardly speak.

'All I could think of was how was I going to feed my children. I then rang Berry who gave me a long explanation of a business deal that went wrong and how he would pay me back handsomely “any moment now”.

'I felt such a fool and for the next two months stayed at home feeling depressed and ill.

‘I gave him time because I thought if I kicked him out straight away I would have no chance of getting my money back. By mid-June I’d had enough.’

She then did what so few of his victims had dared to do before, and complained to the police.

‘I told them what had happened and arranged to call 999 when he next showed up,’ says Sara.

‘When he did, they came to arrest him and all he said when they marched him off was to ask me to look after his dog. I haven’t seen him since.’

She then did some investigation of her own. ‘I got in touch with the people who had been with us on kayaking trips and all the friends on his Facebook account, and told them about what had happened.

Men and women came back to me and I discovered that at least three women were involved with him at the same time as me and had also lost money.’

He had, for example, taken nearly £15,000 from Mabel Arnhill, a 32-year-old businesswoman and member of his kayaking club.

Berry called himself Dr Teady and, promising to buy her a kayak, got her credit card details and emptied the account.

Sara found herself working alongside Detective Constable Derek Farrow in Saltash near Plymouth and it is thanks to his research and Sara’s bravery that Berry has finally been convicted.

Up until 2008 a few women had reported him to their local police.

But the complaints were treated as isolated incidents and, with Berry moving around, nothing was done – as Lynne Martin, Berry’s former girlfriend from Tayside, knows only too well.

She reported him after losing the best part of £30,000, but got nowhere.

Lynne, now 40, says: ‘He was a real seducer. He’s very good at it. But I think career women are more vulnerable.

'When men put a lot into their work and don’t have partners or children they are admired, whereas women feel under pressure to have it all and get anxious about finding a partner while they are of child-bearing age.

'If you say you are interested in something he, chameleon-like, says he is too.

‘I reported him to the police but here in Scotland they said it was a civil matter and took no interest.

'I took out a private prosecution which I won, but I haven’t been able to get my money back.

'I felt so awful that initially I was suicidal and lost all my trust in people. It has taken me a long time to recover, but I have finally found someone I believe I can rely on.’

Between 2008 and April of this year DC Farrow has been tracking Berry’s victims all round the world.

He has spoken to Berry’s sister – who has disowned him – and Berry’s mother, herself a victim of his fraud.

Much about Berry remains unfathomable, such as how he has spent the vast sums he defrauded, what has driven him to destroy the lives of those around him, or why it is women he chooses to humiliate.

No one from Berry’s family was willing to comment. But close family friends are mystified by his behaviour.

His upbringing is understood to have been warm and loving. Berry was born in Callington, Cornwall, and at six months was adopted by a naval medic and his wife.

On leaving school at 16 he got a job in the naval dockyards in Plymouth. But that was a brief stay, and he has never been able to hold down a regular job since.

There may be some light shed on this question when he is back in the dock for sentencing in two weeks’ time.

Berry might well be jailed, but it is unlikely to be a long sentence.

Although still suffering from anxiety, Sara seems to be recovering.

‘At first I was very cross with myself but I have fought against becoming bitter and untrusting,’ she says.

‘I admit I was naive, but there isn’t a law against that. He, not me, should feel embarrassed about what he has done.’
Although, she feels, there is little chance of that.

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Investigated by yngathrrt @ 4:47 PM
Link To The Evidence| 0 Notes
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Case# 67 Online Dating Sites used as Hunting Grounds for Fraudsters
A Ghanaian man accused of posing as a US soldier on an online dating site has been arrested on suspicion of conning a British woman into sending £271,000 to Africa.

In what is thought to be the biggest case of its kind so far, police detained Maurice Asola Fadola, 31, who is thought to be behind a series of "romance frauds" – targeting women through dating sites, and fabricating an elaborate series of stories to convince them to send money to Ghana.

The British victim, who did not want to be named, struck up a relationship over the internet with a man she believed to be an American soldier serving in Iraq.

After several months of correspondance, in which he told of his life dodging bullets and bombs, he told her that he was leaving the army – and perhaps they could meet up. But while his luggage was being returned to the US, there were a series of "problems" which the British woman was enticed into helping out – to the eventual cost of £271,000.

The head of the Ghanaian Serious Fraud Office described Mr Fadola as a suspected "kingpin", and his arrest after months of painstaking intelligence gathering is the high point of a joint Ghanaian-British campaign against alleged romance frauds.

Last month officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) travelled to the Ghanaian capital of Accra to work alongside Ghanaian police in arresting Mr Fadola.

Officers had planned to mount a "sting" operation; setting traps for when he came to collect money they had sent to a money transfer service, or lying in wait for him to pick up a parcel of laptops or mobile phones from the Post Office.

Police froze his bank accounts, and when he came into the Serious Fraud Office in Accra to try and brazen his way into releasing the funds, he was arrested.

Mr Fadola, who lived in a luxurious mansion on the outskirts of Accra, is being held in custody and questioned over money laundering and passport offences, which carry a maximum sentence of 25 years.

Colin Woodcock, head of SOCA's fraud department, said that his team was working alongside Ghanaian authorities, sharing policing techniques with local forces to track down the fraudsters.

"At first we thought it was just people sending £50 here or there," he said, "but although the bulk are small frauds, now we know that some people are being robbed of hundreds of thousands.

"It's an international problem, involving police forces from across the globe working together to squeeze the criminals."

More and more cases of romance fraud are being discovered.

In August last year Philip Hunt, 58, threw himself under a train after losing £82,000 in a romance fraud. He had met a Nigerian girl on the internet, who convinced him to spend the money with promises of starting a life together.

"These people are out to get people when they are very vulnerable. They're in there like vultures," Lesley Smith, Mr Hunt's former partner, told the inquest into his death.

Mr Woodcock said: "The bottom line is: don't give anyone your money. Imagine you'd met someone in a pub for the first time, and they said I'd love to see you again but can you buy me a laptop?

"We're seeing an explosion in this. Everyone is on online dating nowadays, and criminals have cottoned onto it. These people destroy lives. It's loss on a catastrophic scale."

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Investigated by yngathrrt @ 4:45 PM
Link To The Evidence| 0 Notes
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Case# 66 Online "Colonel" Seemed Like a Catch
Con artist uses Marine’s identity to scam women
By Kimberly Johnson

Wendy McKay thought she had met someone special when the Marine colonel deployed to Iraq started chatting with her on the online dating Web site.

Someone claiming to be Col. Richard Bartch told her he was in Iraq for the first time after volunteering for duty. And like her, he was divorced. Chats quickly led to e-mails and within a day he sent her photos of himself in uniform.

In one, he stood in his woodland digital-patterned utilities, proudly holding up his Bronze Star citation and medal. In another, he’s lounging in desert cammies in a chair, with his service pistol holster pulled taut across his broad shoulders just next to his name tape.

His e-mails were romantic, echoing the sentiment of a schmaltzy Hallmark greeting card:

“I went to sleep last night with a smile because I knew I’d be dreaming of you ... but I woke up this morning with a smile because you weren’t a dream,” he wrote to the 52-year-old British woman Oct. 21, just one day after they made introductions online. “Though miles may lie between us, we’re never far apart, for friendship doesn’t count the miles, it’s measured by the heart.”

The e-mails quickly picked up intensity.

“[T]he feeling is getting stronger and stronger,” he wrote the next day, Oct 22. “... think it will not be hard to LOVE you huh!”

By Oct. 23, his e-mails reflected he was sure it was love.

“You awakened a part of me that had lay [sic] dormant all of life. [A]lthough [I] had loved and been loved before, never had it been so intense and so deep as what we feel for each other. [T]his much [I] am sure of, we share a love so true that [I] have never before experienced the true joy of complete empowering, soul-felt love as we share,” he said.

McKay almost bought it. That is, until she realized doing so was really going to cost her.

Bartch — or more accurately, the con artist who had stolen the identity of the real Marine officer, from a family-oriented military Web site — wanted her to send him $5,000.
Red flags

On Oct. 20, McKay logged onto a U.K.-based dating Web site, “when I was contacted by a person who seemed to like me and we started to chat,” she said in an e-mail, explaining the initial encounter. At the man’s request, she gave him her e-mail address so they could exchange pictures.

“He sent me [four] photos and he told me he was called Colonel Richard O. Bartch and was a retired USA Marine,” she said in her e-mail to Marine Corps Times. “These pictures were of himself and some of his family when he returned from Iraq and another one was of one of his sons who is also a Marine.”

The photo exchange gave way to a feverish wave of online chats. Some of the photos were older and predated his divorce, he told her, in an effort to explain away the wedding ring he was wearing in some of the shots.

He had three sons, the fake colonel said. Two were natural born, but the middle child — Albert — was adopted after his mother, a Spanish neighbor who lived down the street, died suddenly when he was nine years old.

“The story was so intricate,” she said, in a phone interview from Peterborough, England.

The fake colonel was having trouble contacting Albert and was concerned about him, he told McKay, explaining that a military security regulation prevented him from making or receiving calls from Iraq. He asked her to call Albert on his behalf to check on his welfare, and gave her a phone number with an area code for Atlanta, which he said was his hometown.

McKay called.

Recalling the brief conversation, she said the young man who answered the phone had a thick foreign accent — presumably to corroborate the story of a Spanish mother. He sounded as if he was in his early 20s, she said. In hindsight, McKay now believes he was the scammer himself.

“I think he wanted to see how I’d fallen for it,” she said.

There were other red flags, from the beginning, McKay noted, such as mistakes in grammar and military references. In an early e-mail explaining photos of his sons, Bartch wrote: “Nathan and her mum welcomed me when [I] went back to the states ... and that’s me with the bronze reward.”

Other clues were more subtle. During a chat session, she sensed he was carrying on more than one conversation at the same time. Another time, he told her he had to go out into the field, but asked her to wait. He was only away from his computer for a short time before he returned. To McKay, who once was married to a man in the Royal Air Force, the brevity of his trip “to the field” seemed curious.

On Oct. 30, however, he confided in her that he needed her help urgently. He was in the process of packing up to leave Iraq, but somehow his bag had been intercepted in Ghana. His “diplomatic tag” had run out; he couldn’t pay to renew it while in Iraq and needed £2,500, about $5,000, she said.

“The minute he said that, I logged off,” she said, realizing it was a scam.

“He asked for the money in pounds,” and not in American currency, she said. “He said ‘I’ll pay you back when I come and see you.’”

Seeing red
McKay is not the only woman the faker tried to dupe, but she wants to be the last. She gave copies of the e-mails and the Atlanta telephone number to U.S. military police based in the U.K. and sent a letter to the Marine Corps.

“I wanted [Bartch] to know that someone is impersonating him, and how easy it is,” McKay said.

The photos of the real Col. Richard Bartch are believed to have been copied from the Web site, said the site’s founder, Deborah Conrad. It’s a Web site focused on family morale during military deployments.

Attempts to reach the fake colonel for comment, using both his e-mail address and the Atlanta-area telephone number, went unanswered.

“He has posted under this identity on at least four different dating sites that I am aware of,” said Conrad, who launched in 2004, when a friend deployed to Iraq for the second time.

“I first learned of this a few months back when a woman contacted me to let me know that she had been corresponding with a man she met through an online dating service and had become suspicious when he told her he had a son who was a [sergeant] in the Navy,” Conrad said in an e-mail. “[Whoever] it is, he doesn’t do a very good job of military customs and courtesies.”

The original photos of the real Bartch were given to Conrad for the Web site by his wife, Mary Helen Bartch, when he was deployed to Iraq in 2004, Conrad said. The recent misuse of Bartch’s photos is the only instance Conrad’s aware of where material found on her Web site has been used for a scam, she said in a phone interview.

“I don’t know of any way to stop things like this from happening, other than to never post anything to the Web,” she said.

“One of the things I want my Web site to do is share the successes of wonderful things Marines are doing around the world,” Conrad said. Adding layers of protection, such as locking the personal photos to prevent copying, wasn’t something she had thought she would need to consider.

The whole point of the site is to share, she explained. Some Marine families, for example, have seen photos of their loved ones on deployment for the first time on her site, she added.

Tall tales
The real colonel has heard several of the wild stories, the adventures concocted in his name that also lured in women from Denmark and the state of Georgia.

“Supposedly I had saved a diplomat,” and there was a suitcase with $5 million in reward money waiting for pickup somewhere in Africa, Bartch said in a telephone interview. One woman was preparing to travel to Africa to pick up the money, Bartch said. The impostor told another that his son had been injured, prompting mounting medical bills, and that the impostor needed money for travel expenses.

“It’s a pure Nigerian scam, and unfortunately I got involved with my name in it,” Bartch said.

Marine Corps officials notified Bartch, who they say is listed as being in the Individual Ready Reserve and living in Spokane, Wash., who then notified his banks and law enforcement officials, including the FBI, as a precaution.

The nature of the identity theft — only a name, and a handful of personal photos — limited his options.

“No one can do anything about it. Just because the guy’s using my name, there’s not any real recourse,” Bartch said. “It is a violation, but it’s not like being broken into.”

After word of the scam emerged, Conrad removed Bartch’s photos from the site and things have quieted down.

“I would like to see it dropped,” he said.

Liar, liar
While Marine impersonators are not new, the case highlights a unique area where the persona — and not the personal information, such a Social Security number — of a real person was used in the attempt to scam money.

Hard statistics about online fraud remain vague, but online digital identity theft is on the rise, said Marsali Hancock, president of the Arlington, Va.-based Internet Keep Safe Coalition.

There are simple ways to help guard against online identity theft, she said. Don’t post a person’s name below photos. Use privacy settings on social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook.

“The Internet is forever,” Hancock said. “Whatever you post, you can never fully remove. Once you put your picture up [on the Internet], it’s up there and you lose control over it.”

Internet postings pose potential risk for those in the military, she added.

“It seems like military officers could be at risk because the information they share with their families might not be information that they’d want to share with the world,” she said. “It puts their family at risk,” as well as themselves, she said.

That’s not to say military morale Web sites and blogs should go silent — they should just try to be a little more savvy, she explained. “They can share good news without sharing specific names,” Hancock said.

McKay said she has learned a valuable lesson, but admitted the incident has been a setback. The divorcee of six years said she had only resumed dating within the last couple of years.

“Women are on that [dating] site because they’re looking for a partner, they’re looking for a relationship,” McKay said. “[Scammers] think women on there are divorced, got a good settlement off their husbands and have got money to play with.

She is no longer using the online dating site.

“I’m very, very wary,” McKay said. “I don’t know if I could trust them again.”

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Investigated by yngathrrt @ 8:41 PM
Link To The Evidence| 0 Notes
Sunday, May 02, 2010
Case# 65 Cyberworld: Assume One Person is a Predator
by Pat Guadette

In the virtual world, assume that at least one person in a chat room or a forum is a predator and act accordingly.

Don't post personal details in an open forum; don't assume that a private, religious or parenting, etc. forum is any safer. On the Internet, there is no 100% safe place.

Don't email personal details to strangers no matter how understanding and solicitous they may appear.

Don't give out personal details when you're using chat or Instant Message programs even if the other person seems to give these details to you. They may have given you false information in an attempt to build up your trust.

Even if you feel you can trust the person you've been chatting or emailing, don't give out your address, phone number, or last name. With internet searches, someone with even one personal detail can probably find out where you live and more.

If you're planning to meet someone you've met online, make your first meeting in a fairly busy public place and take a friend along.

If you don't want to take someone with you, at least give them details of who you're meeting, where you're meeting, and when you'll be back to work or home.

No matter how the sparks fly at that first meeting, don't invite him or her back to your place.

No matter how comfortable you feel at that first meeting, don't take a drive with them or let them drop you off at your home.

Trust your "gut." There is no need to force yourself to like someone. That's exactly the point of meeting face-to-face: to see if the "bond" you feel for this person is real or illusion.

Have you been betrayed by your spouse? Have you come to the Web for comfort and support? Have you trusted in virtual friends and been hurt when they've betrayed you? After being betrayed in real life, why would you think a virtual relationship would be any safer from betrayal? Behind that keyboard, all those many miles away, is a real person, not a perfect person.

Remember Ted Bundy? He was an absolute charmer. I'm not implying that your online friend is another Ted Bundy but until you are absolutely certain he or she isn't, play it smart and safe.

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Investigated by yngathrrt @ 4:38 PM
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