Stalking via the internet isn’t just a problem that haunts certain celebrities — there have been many cases where an ex-lover, colleague or friend has used social media to uncover information about their former acquaintance. In most instances the creeping is harmless, but feeling like you’re under a microscope can put a damper on your day and take all the fun out of sites like Facebook and Twitter.
So how can you spot a creeper at an early stage, and how do you keep your account safe from unwanted attention?
Keeping it private
Twitter and Facebook work in different ways, but both have privacy settings that you can use to help safeguard your personal details. Twitter is an open platform by nature, and its default level means your Tweets can be read by anyone. In the worst case scenarios, the implications can be very severe.
You can choose to protect your account updates so that only pre-approved readers can follow them, but if you’re looking for new contacts, particularly in the business world, this isn’t a great idea.
Spotting a stalker on Twitter
If your Twitter account is open, readers don’t even have to follow you in order to read your updates—so how do you know if someone is creeping on you? Some stalkers are more overt and will start up a conversation just to get you interacting. If someone you don’t know tweets at you and the messages look a little weird, you can easily block them, but you can’t always rely on this type of ‘sixth sense’.
You can deter any potentially unwanted followers by keeping personal details to a minimum. Don’t let everyone know about your movements, and definitely don’t tweet about an upcoming holiday because a recent survey reveals that as many as 75% of convicted burglars use sites such as Twitter and Facebook for alerts about potentially empty properties.
Staying safe on Facebook
Anyone can follow you on Twitter, but with Facebook you have to pre-approve those who send in a friend request. This leaves less potential for creeping, but it’s still possible for social stalkers to connect with their intended targets.
A study has found that the “mutual friends” feature provided by the site is just the opening stalkers need, and while its intent is merely to bring people together, it’s a system that can be abused.
“The mutual friends feature is not created in tandem with privacy setting designs, and inadequate thought with regards to security and privacy issues has been given to it,” said James Joshi, principal investigator of the study carried out by the University of Pittsburgh.
How can the system be corrupted? Imagine a colleague or former lover who wants to creep on you—they can scout through Facebook and find a mutual friend who doesn’t have an account. The next phase is to find an old photo, upload it, start a new page within the site and then connect with you in an effort to find out all your personal details. Where are you living now? Are you in a relationship? And so on… In fact, another recent study suggests that as many as 50% of current Facebook users are using the site to monitor movements of a former partner.
Spotting the bogus account
There are conflicting theories as to how many fake Facebook accounts are out there, and while many are simply pranks that might imitate, say, a famous cartoon character, others have far more sinister intentions.
If you find it odd that a mutual acquaintance has gotten in touch with you after a long period of time, then it could be that you are about to become a victim of creeping. If you are in any way suspicious then you can choose to ignore the friend request altogether but if you’ve accepted the approach but are still concerned, you can still try to uncover the truth.
You could start up a low-key conversation, and ask questions that only your friend is likely to know. Try to be subtle and work out where they might slip up and uncover their true identity.
Safe online activity
In general, the use of Social Media sites is safe but unfortunately there is a small minority who find it acceptable to spy, in the virtual sense, on a friend, colleague, neighbor or partner. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue to use and enjoy sites such as Facebook and Twitter but there are ways in which you can maintain your safety.
Think about deleting your location from your profile, as this may deter would-be creepers in your home town. If you’re willing to do it, protect your Tweets. But above all, don’t ever give out any personal information to anyone over the internet. You never know who might be posing as a friend.
Have you ever been the victim of cyber stalking? What steps have you taken to safeguard your social media accounts?
This guest post was written by Kevin Raposo, a blogger for SimpliSafe. Kevin covers topic related to tech, crime, safety, and home security. Someday he wants to avoid cyber stalkers by inventing alter-ego bloggers with crazy names. SimpliSafe Home Security Systems is making its way to the top of its industry.
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