Cyber Crime & Internet Safety
- For Kids
- Online Commerce
- Computer & Online Privacy
- Keeping Young People Safe
- Social Networking
The internet is a great resource for communicating with family and friends, finding information and having fun. But it is also important to stay safe when online via a computer, cell phone or gaming system.
Keep these important safety tips to keep in mind when you are online.
Unfortunately, youths have been tricked online by people who pretend to be something that they're not. Some children have found themselves in a dangerous situation when they agreed to meet the mysterious online "friend" in person. Here's some tips that will help you stay safe and have fun:
- Remember that people online may not be who they say they are.
- Never give out personal information such as your full name, school, home address, or phone number.
- Tell a parent or another trusted adult if a stranger contacts you in a chat room or through email or text messaging.
- Do not meet anyone (or have them visit you) without talking to your parents first.
- Talk to your parents about anything that you encounter online that makes you feel uncomfortable or scared.
It's important to think before you text. Once you send a text message or a photo, even to a friend, you can't take it back and you never know who might forward it.
Be sure you think twice before you send or text anything that you might regret. Ask yourself: "How would I feel if my parents [or teacher] saw this?"
Want to know more?Watch the videos Information Travels at NSTeens.org.
Cyber Bullying, like bullying in the physical world, may include:
- Sending hurtful, hateful, derogatory, harassing or threatening messages to others;
- Spreading rumors; and/or
- Sending personal or embarrassing information about or pictures of others - all with the intention of intimidating, frightening, ridiculing, or harming someone else.
Cyber Bullying Advice
- If your friends are participating in cyber bullying, it doesn't mean you have to! Think about how you would feel if you were the person your peers were talking about.
- If someone is bullying you, remember that you can ignore, block or "unfriend" anyone who is bullying you online. Also, don't reply or forward the message to anyone (except to a trusted adult).
- It's always a good idea to involve a trusted adult -maybe a parent, teacher, older sibling, or coach.
Want to know more?
Watch the video Cyber Bullying at NSTeens.org.
Keep Your Privacy
You may think you have privacy while online or on your phone, but IMs, emails, photos, texts and wall posts - all forms of digital communication - can be forwarded, shared, altered and printed. And, even if you delete them, they can still sometimes last forever!
Be sure to check with your parent before you create any personal profile. Why? This information could be used for reasons you wouldn't like, like getting a lot of junk email.
Another way to keep your privacy is to choose a screen name or email account name that isn't your real name. For instance, instead of "Mark_Smith," why not choose "Sk8boardKing21"? Only your friends and family will know your code name!
- Don't send pictures that would be embarrassing to you or others.
- Don't share your passwords with anyone except your parents.
- Don't reply to any email that asks for your personal information. Some emails may look official, as if it was sent by your Internet provider, but they can actually be a trick to get your personal info.
As use of the Internet expands, more consumers engage in a wide variety of online commercial activities including purchasing goods and services from online retailers, paying bills, conducting online banking and other financial transactions, or communicating with various businesses to obtain or provide information. Before participating in these activities, there are some common sense precautions that will help you to protect yourself against the potential risks of online fraud. For example: create strong passwords, and use updated firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer.
Additionally, do not provide financial information, Social Security numbers, or credit card information to recipients through email communications as email is not a secure method by which to transmit this type of information. Finally, is you are using a computer in a library or other place where there is widespread public use, be aware that it is more likely to contain malware that may capture or keep track of any personal information you enter onto websites while using it.
Shop at Trusted Online Retailers
When you buy products or services from a local store, you are likely doing business with in individual or company that you trust or are familiar with. Exercise the same degree of care when making purchases from online retailers. If you have never heard of the company and do not know the company's reputation, find out the company's physical address and check with the Better Business Bureau in the area where the company is located. If you cannot obtain verification that the company is a legitimate business, you may want to decline to do business with it. If you are inclined to do business with the company anyway, be sure that the website provides a real world address and telephone number so that you can contact the company directly if you need to.
Delivery and Return Policies
When calculating the total cost of your purchase, you should determine the amount of the shipping and handling charges that may apply to your transaction. If you are located in another state or country, there may additional costs or taxes that apply to your transaction. Before you go forward with your purchase, ask a series of questions. Does the website tell you when you should expect the product to be delivered, whether and how returns can be made if you are not satisfied with it, and how you can contact the merchant in case of problems? If the website does not provide information about delivery dates and returns, you may want to rethink doing business with the merchant.
Some merchants also set a deadline as to how long they will accept returns while other may charge a fee to accept returned merchandise. You should also be aware that some websites will not permit you to make returns at retail locations, while others do.
Write down the company's mailing address and telephone number in case you need to contact it in the future, print out a copy of your order, and review and print out the return, refund, and cancellation polices.
When you are prompted to enter your payment information, look for the following: a Web address beginning with "https;" a padlock in the status bar at the bottom of the webpage; or the words "Secure Sockets Layer (SSl)." These signs indicate that you are using a secure site that allows only you and the merchant to see the payment information you are providing online. If you see these symbols, your credit card number should be secure. Note, though, that encryption is not foolproof.
Protect Personal Information
When providing payment information, a company should require only the personal information necessary to complete the transaction. You will most likely need to enter name, address, telephone number and credit card information. If the business asks you for other personal information such as Social Security number or bank account number, consider that suspect and use extreme caution.
When making payment online, the method of payment that gives you the greatest consumer protections is payment with a credit card. Because federal law protects consumers from fraudulent use of credit cards, using a credit card is the safest method of payment. If your credit card has been used for purchases you did not authorize, you are only responsible for up to $50. However, there are some limitations, including when you use your credit cards with companies that are outside of the U.S. As with all credit card purchases, it is important to regularly review your monthly statements and immediately report any unauthorized charges to the merchant and your credit card company.
If you do choose to provide your credit card number to the merchant website to purchase your product or service, print out a record of the purchase. Most merchant websites permit you to do so, and this record will be helpful if problems arise.
If a vendor or online seller asks you to wire funds via Western Union or other money wiring service, you should avoid doing so. Likewise, if you are conducting an online transaction, be aware that fake cashier checks and money orders are common and, although your bank may cash them and tell you the check has cleared, you may be held responsible if the check or money order is discovered to be a fake.
In addition, avoid the use of "one-click shopping" or the "remember password and username" option. Although some websites and browsers offer this option as a convenience to you, anyone who uses your computer will have the ability to gain access to your account or use your payment information.
As with any online purchase, a consumer bidding in an Internet auction should know exactly who it is they are doing business with. You should keep in mind that the auction site, in most situations, is merely bringing together the buyer and seller. As a result, the same retail protections for other merchant sites do not apply against the auction site. Be sure, though, that you check out the site's consumer protection policies, because many do offer insurance and other protections to help if you are the victim of fraud.
If you have been successful in a bid, make direct contact with the seller and try not to use just email. Find a working telephone number or verifiable street address. It is also a good idea to pay for your purchases with a credit card so that you have another option for disputing fraudulent charges. If it is a substantial purchase, you may want to consider doing business with a reputable escrow company that will hold your funds until you have received the item.
Finally, it is important that you always buy within the auction. You should be wary of individuals who offer to sell you items after the auction if you were not the winning bidder. These kinds of scams occur repeatedly and those purchases are not covered by the consumer protections provided by the auction site.
Viruses, Spyware & Malware
A computer virus is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer without permission or knowledge of the user. Viruses spread by being attached to files or other programs and can cause your computer to crash, erase your hard drive, or do other damage.
Take caution before you download files and programs off of the Internet to your computer – games, movies, music, unusual e-mails, etc. – and install up to date virus protection software for your system. If it is infected with a virus, your computer may run particularly slowly or exhibit other strange behavior such as crashing or restarting on its own, freezing or not responding to commands. You may receive error messages you have not seen before or see distorted dialog boxes or menus, or you may receive returned emails that you did not send. Symantec maintains a list of Virus Definitions & Security Updates that is updated daily; McAfee also maintains a list of current virus threats and definitions.
If you think your computer is infected with a virus, use your virus protection software to scan your computer and disinfect or delete any infected files
Spyware and Malware
Spyware is software that secretly gathers information about a user while he/she navigates the Internet. Short for malicious software, malware is a program or file that is designed to specifically damage or disrupt a system. Malware and spyware can be either viruses (programs which piggyback on legitimate programs to spread and operate), or worms (which are programs that actively transmit themselves over a network to infect other computers).
Malware is created and used by individuals with malicious intent. It should not be confused with legitimate software that has bugs. People who are writing malicious code are often using it to profit by collecting credit card numbers, social security numbers, or other personal information.
Protect Your Computer
You should periodically scan your computer to detect any malicious programs (viruses or spyware) that may have been installed on your computer unbeknownst to you and are designed to collect sensitive information about you or to misdirect you to fraudulent websites. If your operating system offers free security software upgrades, you should install them as they become available.
Invest in virus protection software from a reputable source, and be sure to check for updates every few weeks. Avoid programs from unknown sources and stick to commercial software. Set secure passwords for your email and online accounts, and always be sure to use a secure connection when accessing the Internet wirelessly. Do not click on email attachments, instead, download all files and use virus protection software to scan files or documents before opening. Be sure to check your online accounts regularly.
Hacking is unauthorized use of computer and network resources. While this term originally referred to a clever or expert programmer, it is now more commonly used to refer to someone who can gain unauthorized access to other computers.
Computer hacking is difficult to define. Computer hacking always involves some degree of infringement on the privacy of others or damage to computer-based property such as files, web pages, or software. The impact of computer hacking varies from simply being invasive and annoying to illegal. For more information from the federal government about hacking and cyber crimes, visit the FBI Cyber Investigations website, or the US Department of Justice Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section website.
If you have received a suspicious email claiming to be a legitimate business, government agency, or financial institution, and are being asked to supply personal information over email, please use extreme caution before you take action.
Banks and other financial institutions will never ask for your personal information via email no matter how official the email may look. To verify any links that may be included in an email, do not click them, but use your mouse to hover over them to view and visibly verify the web link. If you do click any of the links in the suspicious email, you may become the victim of phishing.
Phishing is an attempt to steal personal data where a thief sends an email claiming to be from a legitimate business, a government agency, or a financial institution like your bank or credit card issuer. The website or email often asks you to confirm or update your account information, or may ask for your social security number, credit card information, personal identification number, password or user name, or other sensitive personal information. The thief then can use your personal information to commit identity theft or other fraudulent activities.
Phishing scams often rely on placing links in email messages, on websites, or in instant messages that seem to come from a service that you trust, like your bank, credit card company, or social networking site. You may also receive them in a Facebook message or Twitter Direct Message where it may look as though a friend is sending you a link or video. These websites or emails may mimic legitimate ones very successfully. If you think your bank or other organization requires your information, call customer service, or type the organization's Web address into your browser directly.
Recently, phishing scams ask for money or financial information in the form of an email from someone purporting to be a family member in an emergency situation. These emails might say they are from a family member on vacation who has found themselves in danger and in need of help. If you receive one of these, call the family member or their close friend first to try and verify the information.
For additional information on protecting your identity, view the Scams and Identity Theft sections website.
Laptops & Wireless Security
Protecting Your Laptop
With the added portability of a laptop comes the increased risk of theft, and with that, the potential loss of irreplaceable data and personally identifiable information and files. Never leave your laptop unattended: Lost or stolen laptops and mobile devices are the most frequent cause of a data breach, accounting for 49 percent of data breaches involving personal information.
When your laptop is not in your immediate possession, ensure that it is securely locked up. Always use password protected access to your computer and back up your data regularly, either with an external hard drive or through a cloud storage service. You may consider installing an asset tracking and recovery tool to track and recover computers that are lost or stolen.
Wireless Internet Connections
With ubiquitous and accessible wireless Internet, continue to express caution about the networks you choose to join. In some cases, unless proper safeguards are taken, users may find their wireless access account breached by hackers using your Internet connection to conduct illegal activities, which may include the theft of your sensitive personal and financial information.
There are some simple precautions you can take to increase your level of wireless Internet security. If you're not sure how to implement them, ask someone, such as the person who installed your wireless network, to help you.
- Place the wireless router in a central location in your house. Avoid placing it near exterior walls and windows to help decrease the signal strength outside of the intended coverage area.
- Install anti-virus software and anti-spyware on your computers and keep it up-to-date. Stay current with the security programs and alerts by visiting trusted computer security companies and websites. If your current operating system does not have one, add a firewall to each computer in your home. Use automatic updates to ensure that your operating system and related security tools are up-to-date.
- Require authentication for any computer that logs on to your wireless network and change the default authentication password once every three months. Set up your wireless router to accept information from only the computers in your home by using Media Access Control (MAC) addresses.
- Avoid storing sensitive materials on your computer, including credit card numbers, social security numbers, or other personal information.
- Encrypt all information transmitted over your wireless network. If you cannot enable encryption, connect to the Internet with a network cable when sending financial or other critical information over the Internet.
When accessing websites online or using various online services, you are often asked to create a unique user name and password. A password is a unique identifier of letters and/or numbers which allow a computer user to gain access to a computer and all of its files. In addition, most online activity (such as shopping, participating in an online discussion or simply signing up to receive a coupon or an electronic newsletter) now requires the selection of a user name and a password.
Ideally, a secure password is one which no one else can guess and which is resistant to being hacked, that is, having one's online information breached, and thus leading to the danger of having one's identity, credit card information and/or money stolen. In order to make your passwords less susceptible to compromise, you should seek to create passwords that avoid dictionary words and use six or more characters with a mix of letters and numbers and upper-case and lower-case letters to create the strongest password possible. You should also create a new password for each site on which you engage in online commerce, avoid using the same password for all of your online accounts - and never share these passwords with anyone.
Since users are being asked more and more to think of unique user names and/or passwords, many are resorting to less than creative solutions. For example, many users will choose easy to remember passwords (such as admin, 12345, their own first name or year of birth or even the word "password") to make this process more manageable. Unfortunately, these solutions are risky as they make one much more susceptible to being intercepted by a computer hacker. Avoid the use of obvious passwords such as your birthday, nickname, mother's maiden name, phone number or the name of your pet.
Many Internet service providers now offer guidance on strategies to select a password which is less likely to be hacked. These strategies include:
- Choose a long password (12 or more characters) rather than a short one
- Instead of a single word, use a combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers and/or symbols
- Avoid using dictionary words
- Use a phrase for a password such as "mydogsnameisfluffy."
- Create a password which is actually an acronym for a phrase that only you would know, such as: "My favorite food is the Chicago style pizza they have at 19 Main Street" becomes the password: MffitCspth@19MS.
- Take advantage of free password selecting software located via any Internet search engine.
Some websites provide the user with an option to allow the computer to remember usernames and/or passwords. Although this is a convenient feature, in general, it is more prudent not to rely on these options. It is recommended that you use the "Delete stored passwords" feature (typically found under "tools" and then "Internet options"), available through most Internet browsers, to increase your password security.
Spam is the abuse of email technology to send large quantities of unsolicited communications; this could be either commercial or malicious software such as viruses. Spammers harvest and compile bulk listings of email address by automated scanning of popularly used websites or by intercepting the transmission of electronic mailing lists.
Spam is illegal: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlawed spam in the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act) and has established strict protocols for the commercial use of bulk email. Most Internet service providers are working hard to protect their users from spam, but there are things you can do to reduce the amount of spam (malicious or otherwise) that you receive.
The very best way to prevent spam from arriving in the first place is to protect your email address. Placing your email address on everyday locations like a group bulletin board, on social media websites, or by forwarding jokes, stories, and chain letters, all provide ample opportunities for spammers to retrieve addresses. Avoid posting your email address on websites where you are selling a product such as Craigslist. Many of these sites will give you the option of masking your email address with a seller’s address for the posting details. Consider this as an option so potential buyers do not have direct access to your email. Consider using a "disposable" email address for all of your online activity, which can forward your mail to your "real" email address but has many features which filter and eliminate the spam from getting through.
Another way to avoid spam altogether is to ignore it. By responding to these messages, marketers may realize that yours is a "live" email account and this may result in even larger amounts of spam. Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP), as most offer filtering functions and may also be able to shield you from receiving offers from a particular source, especially if you find them offensive.
To forward unwanted or deceptive spam to the FTC send it to email@example.com, and be sure to include the full email header.
If you think you have been taken advantage of by a spam scam, file a complaint with the FTC online at www.ftc.gov. Complaints will help the FTC find and stop those who are using spam to defraud consumers.
Cyberbullying is bullying, through the use of technology or electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, video gaming systems and the Internet. The ways in which youth, and adults communicate through technology change rapidly and are limited only by human creativity. Technology has brought bullying to a new level, however, outside of the classroom or the school yard, and into the homes, and the mobile devices of our children, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
Cyberbullying, like bullying in the physical world, may include:
- Sending hurtful, hateful, derogatory, harassing or threatening messages to others;
- Spreading rumors; and/or
- Sending personal or embarrassing information about or pictures of others - all with the intention of intimidating, frightening, ridiculing, or harming someone else.
What makes cyberbullying different, and sometimes even more traumatic, is that technology now allows bullies to reach beyond the classroom, school bus, playground, or immediate neighborhood to victimize another child before an entire community. Bullies can reach their target at any time or any place, including in his or her own home, via a computer, video game system or cell phone, giving the impression that there is no escape from the bully's reach. In addition, cyberbullying may also involve including dozens or hundreds of "spectators" as in the case when a hateful and threatening communication is shared with an entire group of friends, on a social networking website or with an entire school community.
Protect Your Child
Talk to your child regularly about his or her online activities and experiences, as well as the activities of others he or she may communicate with online. If your child uses any kind of social networking application you would be wise to review your child's friends' list(s) on a regular basis and ask questions to make certain he or she is communicating only with people he or she actually knows.
Set clear expectations with your child about what he or she should do if they are the target of a bullying communication. Some ideas include: immediately tell you, ignore or block the message (if possible) and report incidents of a threatening nature to the Internet service providers (ISPs) and website on which the message was transmitted.
If your child is the victim of cyberbullying by school peers, report the bullying to your child's school and ask the school to address the behavior and protect your child. If you believe that your child's safety is in danger, immediately contact your local police department.
The actions that constitute bullying or cyberbullying might also be a crime. For example a threat can be bullying, but it is also a violation of state law and electronically-communicated threats are a crime in the same way that a face-to-face or written threat can generate a criminal charge. Willfully and maliciously directing electronic communications at a specific person that seriously alarm that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress can result in criminal charges as well as generate a lawsuit seeking financial compensation.
In order to ensure that your child does not engage in cyberbullying activities, you should communicate a clear set of expectations regarding acceptable and unacceptable behavior on the Internet to your child. Explain that unacceptable behavior includes:
- Revealing his or her password or the passwords of others;
- Sending email messages, instant messages or text messages to others disguising himself or herself as another person;
- Spreading rumors or false information about others;
- Sending rude, harassing or threatening email messages, instant messages or text messages;
- Creating websites that ridicule, humiliate, or intimidate others; and/or
- Posting on websites or disseminating embarrassing or inappropriate pictures or images of others.
What is Snapchat?
In short, Snapchat is a “disappearing” messaging app. It allows users to send photos or videos accompanied by short text messages, which can be viewed for a short amount of time.
Snapchat is the fastest growing social media app. surpassing even Instagram, which has been ranked as the number-one favorite app for teens:
- There are an estimated 82 million users, with a majority of them between the age of 13 to 25 years old.
- There are roughly 350 million posts or “snaps” sent daily.
- Four out of every ten teens frequent Snapchat.
- Snapchat has equaled Facebook for numbers of photos shared.
The app was created in 2011 by four students at Stanford University. Their goal is to “accommodate the broadest range of self expression, while giving Snapchat users a safe and enjoyable experience.”
However, the “safe” part of Snapchat has often been debated. The app has become a hotbed for cyberbullying among all ages, in part to how content is managed in the app.
How does it work?
One of the main reasons Snapchat is so popular among teens is that it’s not about sharing photos with the world.
Unlike Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., your content isn’t available for all your “Friends” or “Followers” to see. You choose who you send messages to, and once it’s viewed, it’s gone forever. Or at least, it’s supposed to be.
- Snapchat users “Snap” a photo or video with their phone’s camera, and can add a text message or filter.
- Senders choose how long the message will appear, and who they will send the message to.
- The message is then sent to their friend(s) through Snapchat.
- Once the message is viewed, it is deleted.*
Since it’s inception, Snapchat has also added a number of new features, including:
- Snapchat Stories: These allow users the option of posting their photos and videos to be viewed by everyone or just their friends for 24 hours.
- Text Messaging: Snapchat users can also send text messages to friends when using the chat feature and once it is viewed by both parties the message will be deleted.
- Video Replays: Once every day, a user can choose to replay a video message.
*Although the messages are supposed to “self-destruct” after being delivered, both parties can easily take a screenshot of the message. Snapchat alerts a person when someone has taken a screenshot of their message, but there is no way to prevent them from doing so.
Social Networking In the past decade, social networking websites have become increasingly popular among Internet users, especially young teens, as a place where they can meet other people, communicate, and exchange information. 73% of wired American teens now use social networking websites, a significant increase from previous surveys. Just over half of online teens (55%) used social networking sites in November 2006 and 65% did so in February 2008. With their increased popularity, these sites have also become a "virtual playground" for criminals and potential child predators and for bullies who may hide behind a veil of anonymity to communicate with and prey upon potential victims.
Once a registrant becomes a member, he or she can post personal information, images or other content depending upon the features available at the site. Unless the site offers privacy settings for the disclosure of certain information and the user affirmatively chooses to activate these settings, all the information the user posts on the site may be visible to all other users of the site.
While social networking has created powerful new ways to communicate, share information, and meet new people, there are potential risks associated with the use or misuse of social networking sites that may affect unsuspecting users unless they take appropriate precautions and exercise reasonable care when using the sites. For example:
- Internet sexual predators and known sex offenders have used social networking sites to locate and communicate with potential victims.
- Criminals may steal the identities of users who post personal information.
- Individuals may create false profiles in order to remain anonymous in their communications. Because many social networking sites do not employ an age or identity verification system to ensure that a user who registers as a member is a certain age, an adult can register as a minor member and use that profile to seek access to the profiles of countless underage members.
- Individuals may post derogatory, hurtful, or threatening information about others.
- Stalkers can use personal information posted to the sites to locate and pursue victims.
- Criminals who wish to defraud others of money or property can locate victims, gain their trust, and then take advantage of that trust for criminal purposes.
- Some users post sexually explicit or violent content that is inappropriate for young computer users.
Learn about how different sites work before deciding to join a site. Some sites will allow only users you authorize to access posted content about you; while others will allow everyone to view your postings. Take advantage of the privacy settings that may be offered by a particular social networking site to limit access to those who can access and/or comment about your content. If you are using a site that doesn't offer privacy settings, find another site.
Guard your personal information. Never provide or post you're your full name, date of birth, Social Security number, address, phone number, bank account or credit card numbers, or other personal information that could be used by criminals. Only post information that you are comfortable having others see and know about you. Your postings are like a newspaper where many people can see your profile, including your family members and employers. Users do not always realize that images or messages they post online can create a lasting reputation - good or bad - that may be attributable to them for years to come.
Protect Kids and Teens
The most recent data, released by the Pew Research Center and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, reported that 20% of teens (ages 13-19) and 33% of young adults (ages 20-26) have "sent/posted nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves." While teens and young adults generally send these images to a specific intended recipient - usually a boyfriend or girlfriend - about one in ten say that they have sent images to people they do not know and 61% report that they have experienced pressure to send these images. Strongly discourage your children from posting personal images, including photographs of themselves, their friends, of their family, or the names of their schools, the names of their teams, their grade levels or calendar of upcoming events or any information that may disclosure their future whereabouts.
Explain to your children that the Internet is public and that anyone may gain access to information that he or she posts on it. Remind your child that visitors to social networking sites may disguise their identity and may not be who they appear to be.
View any page your child has set up on a social networking site to make certain that its content does not compromise your child's safety or the safety of others. Put the computer in a family area of the household and do not permit private use.
Report all inappropriate non-criminal behavior to the site through the site's reporting procedures. If your child receives sexually explicit materials or communications over the Internet, you should report it to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) CyberTipline or calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
With the advancement and increased use of technology, online dating has become a common practice for people who are looking to meet a significant other. Online dating services can vary; they can be free or subscription-based, open to all or targeted to a specific audience. Some services may provide background checks for members or require subscribers to complete a personality survey, while others simply allow members to create a profile. Before signing up, members and visitors should carefully read the terms and conditions of a particular service.
Online dating services may have similar applications as other social networking sites, allowing members to create profiles, post pictures, write blogs, and instant message each other in chat rooms.
Sharing Personal Information
As with any Internet social interaction, online dating comes with risks. As we often warn children and teens not to communicate with strangers online, adults too need to take preventative measures to avoid being victims of online predators.
When communicating with someone new online, use caution in sharing personal identifying information such as your last name, phone number, address, or place of employment. Many services will provide an email system, which members can use in lieu of using a personal email address. If you decide to make face-to-face contact, insist on meeting in a public place and let your friends and/or family know of your plans. Provide your own transportation to and from the meeting place.