The information age brings us in to contact with many hundreds, perhaps thousands of other people every year via the internet. It is unavoidable that we will eventually come across some people who do not have our best intentions in mind. We have created some tips for you to help protect your privacy within our group, and in other online forums and chat areas. Keep Personal Information to Yourself!
First rule of thumb is never to give out your real name, address, or phone number to anyone who you are not personally familiar with. Furthermore, do not discuss any aspects of your personal life in an open forum. Avoid pinpointing your location to anything more than your town and state. Do not give out the names of friends, or any of their contact information, without their permission. You would want the same consideration!
Separate your Contact Channels
The best way to avoid issues is to create dedicated “channels” of information for different aspects of your life. Create an instant messenger alias/handle, and an e-mail address specifically for the people you know in real life and your very close online friends. Give everyone else a different e-mail address and IM alias. There are many ways to go about this quickly and easily. Free e-mail addresses are easy to come by, and can be used for anything non-personal. IM services usually allow you to create as many aliases as you would like. There are also programs like Trillian (http://trillian.cc) which allow you connect to more than one IM alias at a time, and also remain invisible to certain people while doing so.
Always find ways to keep complete records whenever incidents occur. For example, if someone is harassing you via e-mail, find the way via your e-mail client or service to “Show Headers” for the e-mail — it’s all the technical junk at the top of the e-mail. Then copy the headers and e-mail body into a text file and save it on your computer. This information may become handy if you have to contact the person’s ISP later. Also use your IM client’s logging feature if it has one. Otherwise, copy and paste any conversations you have with a harasser into a text file and save them, as well.
Shut off Bad Connections If you are being harassed by IM or e-mail, request that the person never contact you again. Then use the “block” feature of your IM client to stop the messages permanently. If messages are coming through e-mail, set up a filter on your e-mail service or client to send all e-mail from the harasser directly to your trash or junk folder.
Most ISPs appreciate it when victims of harassment contact them with information about harassers. If you can find your harasser’s actual service provider, go to their website and e-mail the support team there. Give them all the information you have and tell them what the person is doing. Because SPAM and harassing e-mail can lead to a service provider from being blocked from other machines on the internet, a bad client can cause a service provider’s e-mail from not being received by completely unrelated parties on the internet. So they want to protect their good name!
You can also contact the staff at almost any instant messaging service to tell them if someone is harassing or stalking you. Include any logs you might have kept.