How to Use Technology to Protect Your Family from the World’s Evils

The world is not an inherently safe place, and there are people out there who have no qualms about hurting you or your loved ones for financial gain or to satisfy their own evil desires. The online world presents a unique pool of potential harm with plenty of sharks swimming in its waters. Since online attacks are virtual and not physical confrontations, the predators use psychological tactics to initiate harm. There are ways to protect yourself and your family using a little bit of technology and common sense. Here are four examples of virtual attacks, and tactics you can use to protect yourself and family.

Pornography

The number one business on the Internet is pornography. According to Webroot.com, it earns its purveyors a little over $3,000 per second, and its seekers are bold enough to cause search engines to receive over 116,000 hits per day seeking child porn. Two-thirds of porn seekers are men. Pornography addiction can occur on the first exposure to it. The desire for it increases in intensity upon repeated exposure and requires more graphic representations of it to satisfy the addiction. It is not unlike starting with a sip of beer and progressing to an addiction to vodka.

Simple tricks using technology you already have can help reduce exposure to and the consumption of online pornography. Begin by setting the search engine you use to its safe browsing setting. Google has a setting you can check to “Filter Explicit Results.” Be sure to “lock” the setting so that it cannot be turned off. This greatly reduces pornographic results from showing up when you search for things. Also, learn how to use your computer operating system’s tools such as web filtering and the family safety tool Microsoft offers. Note that you do not have to search for pornography for it to show up. A child doing homework for a biology class could accidentally be exposed to pornography using innocent search terms. If there is an existing problem with pornography, it is imperative to get pornography addiction help as there really is no way to completely deny access to porn to someone who is actively seeking it.

Catfishing

This is where a person uses a fake online identity in pursuit of contact with another person online. It could be a spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend creating a fake social media persona to test the fidelity of a significant other or a child predator pretending to be a minor to attract prey targets. A typical catfishing scheme is played out on unsuspecting men and women seeking a relationship. The actors create personas on social media or dating websites. Then, they spend time grooming their prey to get money from them. It is usually small amounts at first, and psychological trickery is used to get the victim to want to give them money.

You can use the same computer you used to meet a possible catfisher to discover the facts. Look for the clues that indicate catfishing such as a person with new social media accounts and few friends. This type of predator often has all glamorous photos with few or none that show other friends or family members. Google now permits searching for similar images, and this can catch catfishing predators who try to use the pictures others have posted on social media as their own. It is called, “Google Reverse Image Search.” Suspect possible catfishing for anyone online you have never met in person, especially if hints of needing or wanting money begin.

Virtual Kidnapping

This is a terribly frightening situation that can happen to anyone who has an online presence. Criminals learn through social media who your family and friends are. They then target you by choosing the person you are most likely going to want to do anything to protect. Though a scam, they make it feel like a real kidnapping is in progress, and they threaten harm if you do not respond quickly. The scam works by contacting you by any means possible. If they find a phone number for you posted, that is the best way they pull off the scam. However, it may come through social media messaging, text or Internet voice calls.

It begins with a contact telling you that they have kidnapped a friend, relative or other loved one. Then, they are quick to tell you the person kidnapped is in imminent danger of further harm if you do not wire cash immediately. You are further instructed to not attempt to call or otherwise contact the kidnapping victim as this will result in further harm. The last part is designed to keep you from discovering the scam. In a real kidnapping, proof of life requests are expected by kidnappers who are asking for money. Insisting on immediate proof of life by letting you speak with the kidnap victim is a first step.

Additionally, you should scrub any reference to any and all of your personal telephone numbers on social media. Then, scrutinize your social media presence as if you were a criminal seeking to gather intelligence to perpetrate a crime. This can be very revealing to how your posts could be used against you by a predator. Take time to review all old social media account posts and delete any that are even slightly questionable, and make it a point to maintain diligence for all future posts.

Cyber Bullying

This can be a hidden danger that can lead to tragedy. News stories of children committing suicide due to cyber bullying occur all too frequently. Some cyberbullies also like to blackmail victims. A typical blackmail situation may be an image a teenager sent out that is then used as a blackmail trick to get more of what the predator wants. For example, a bra photo may be used as a threat to get more revealing images. The predator, often a peer to the child, insists on more graphic images or the parents of the victim will receive the initial photo. It escalates from there.

Cyberbullies can be individuals or a groups of people. Most often, it is peer groups of the victim such as classmates. Some cyberbullies actually create websites to use to post images, threats, derogatory and other information, and then they share the links through texting and social media. Cyberbully attacks are usually written and verbal attacks that hone in on something the victim is very sensitive about. This can be a person’s looks, family status, handicap or anything that typical bullies use in attacking their victims.

Cyber bullying can go on behind the scenes, leaving you unaware of what your child is going through. Though teens protest it as an invasion of privacy, you must take charge and review your child’s social media accounts and personal electronics, including cell phones, tablets and computers. Look for behavioral changes that indicate bullying, such as sudden loss of interest in participating in social situations with peers, withdrawn behaviors, changes in eating and sleep habits, and even angry outbursts. If something appears wrong, there probably is something wrong. Get to the bottom of it to protect your child.

It is a big responsibility to protect family from the world’s evils. The online world just adds to the work. However, you can do it. Just take the time to brush up on the latest social media outlets and the trends people are using to communicate electronically such as Snapchat. Become aware, savvy and, above all, be a person who any family member can come to when they feel they are under threat from anyone else.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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