There is no doubt social network has added a lot of positives to the way we work, play and live, however it comes with security worries that often exposes users to potential dangers.
It is no longer safe to think that individuals who you converse with on the different social networking sites are trustworthy and could be believed to be exactly who or what they say they are.
Social networking comes with different kind of dangers which has impacted a lot of people’s lives negatively, worse still, many have lost their lives through social networking activities and the online crime rate remains high.
People need to be conscious of the kind of information they share on social networks, especially during chat conversation with strangers. It is not everything about you that you disclose in an online chat with a virtual stranger whom the social network might call your friend.
[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”left” arrow=”yes”]Around April this year, two fraudsters were apprehended in Lagos for impersonating Governor Ambode with an attempt to withdraw N50m from the state government’s account after cloning the governor’s phone number. A similar case was also reported within that same period where two criminals tried cloning the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu’s phone number in a ploy to dupe unsuspecting victims.[/quote]Social network users should be aware that sharing such information as where they live, school, work and so on with a stranger they met only online could be tantamount to leading criminals to their homes, schools or work places.
Things like identity theft happens regularly online, sexual molesters and rapists have flooded the online space in search of prey and people have equally had their pictures stolen from their profiles and used in a negative way.
Technology Times review some of the common social network traps many Nigerians fall into.
Identity theft is when someone you know or don’t know claims to be you by stealing your identity. It can be as simple as he or she saying they are you in a forum, or as serious as stealing your Social Security number or bank account information and using it for personal or professional gain. It is, however, the most common type of theft made against a person.
It is also a criminal offence in Nigeria and charges should be filed immediately if a law has been broken. There are number of ways in which one’s identity could be stolen online: E-mailing you a virus that would let them gain access to your computer, asking you to share your passwords with virtual strangers, giving someone your credit card or bank information, not protecting your computer and Internet access with a firewall and other secure measures, sharing photos of yourself, friends and family with those you don’t know or posting them in a public setting.
Identity theft happens in Nigeria very often and the identity thieves most of the times try to claim the identity of top government officials, public figures, religious heads and others, using their names to swindle unsuspecting people online.
Around April this year, two fraudsters were apprehended in Lagos for impersonating Governor Ambode with an attempt to withdraw N50m from the state government’s account after cloning the governor’s phone number. A similar case was also reported within that same period where two criminals tried cloning the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu’s phone number in a ploy to dupe unsuspecting victims.
If you find you have been a victim of identity theft, you can contact the police and file a report, and if banking or credit card information has been stolen, close all of the accounts in question. Also if someone is stealing your profile information and using it as his or her own, then you can report that person to the owner of the site (FaceBook for example) and have that person banned.
Sexual predators are one of the worst-feared online dangers. A lot of people have fallen victim to this group of people online. They often than not use stolen identity to deceive their victims by making up profiles to portray someone they’re not and even post photographs of people they are claiming to be.
Predators and pedophiles can use the Internet to exchange names, phone numbers, profiles, e-mails and even physical addresses with others pedophiles and potential victims. And while they operate in isolation in the real world, online they are free to say and do whatever they want.
Sexual predators usually look for individuals who are: New to online social networks, actively seeking affection or attention, lonely or isolated, confused about sexual identity, easily tricked and soon.
A lot of young people in Nigeria have fallen victims to sexual predators on social networks. A vivid example is the viral case of certain Cynthia Osukogu who around 2012 was murdered in Lagos by men she met on FaceBook and planned the Lagos visit from her Nasarawa base.
Cynthia came to Lagos on the invitation of her assailants who got to know that she had a boutique in Nasarawa through their chats. On arrival, she was strangled to death in the hotel by her assailants, who thereafter left with an undisclosed amount, her student identity card and phones. The killers were later arrested and charged to court.
If you or your child or anyone close to you is ever disturbed by an online sexual predator, also contact police as soon as you notice and file a report. It will help if you can keep track of any identifying factors about the individual including the social network he or she was on, screen name and times contact was made.
Some tips on protecting yourself and your family from online social networking dangers
As parents or guardians of a minor who frequently uses the Internet for school or pleasure, there are a few things you can do to keep your child safe:
- Keep the computer centrally located in the house
- Know with whom your child is conversing; you can keep a history of all instant messages, text messages, e-mails and Web sites visited
- Never let your child meet anyone online in person without your knowledge or without you being present
- Post a set of Internet house rules near the computer that contain the following requirements:
- Never give out last name, phone number, address, school or other identifying information
- A posted amount of time he or she is allowed to spend online not doing schoolwork
- A list of social networks he or she is allowed to visit; make sure parental controls are in place
- Rules of common courtesy that include being polite and not writing anything that would be construed as sexual, racial or personal misconduct.
- Never let your child use your credit card information to purchase something
- Frequently change your passwords to your online social networks, as well as to any other account you access through the Internet.
Children and Teenagers
There are some things that youths can do to keep safe while networking with others online:
- Never give out personal information to anyone
- Never make threatening or rude remarks
- Know with whom you are chatting
- Don’t believe everything someone tells you about himself or herself
- If you ever feel uncomfortable with what someone is talking about, tell an adult
The dangers in online social networking are obviously not going to stop any time soon. But we can always make effort to navigate through it safely and unhurt. Since it remains impossible to know everybody we converse with online, it remains necessary that we act smartly online by trying to keep certain personal information away from unknown people. That way, they will have no clues to locate you.