Most of us are familiar with the need for cyber safety. Identity theft, hacking, even cyber bullying have become things of which we must be aware. But what about protecting against cyber extortion?
Unfortunately, this has become an issue, specifically on college campuses. In different variations, users pose as acquaintances, become friends and end up asking for compromising photos, followed by blackmail. This is one dangerous scenario, but the negative possibilities are endless.
“Never send intimate photos, even to people you know, because the photos are out there for good; the relationship can end or the phone can be lost or stolen,” TCU Police Detective Mike McCormack said. “There are countless fake accounts and bot accounts and if an intimate photo is obtained by one of those accounts it is unlikely that the police can identify the originator of the account or successfully prosecute a case.”
Leah Carnahan of TCU’s Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education (CARE) in TCU’s Counseling & Mental Health Center reinforces that message.
“If you don’t know a person who is trying to friend you, really question or verify before accepting the request,” she said. “We know there are fake accounts that can lead to bullying or harmful things happening.”
She also urges users to limit or filter with whom you choose to follow or engage. Anyone can be the target of such schemes, but young adults are particularly vulnerable because they are often seeking to grow their social media presence.
“We see influencers who have thousands following them and who are constantly posting,” Carnahan said. “Remember that they have platforms to do that and others helping post content.”
She suggested that if one really aspires to have those kinds of followers, have a private and a public account – but still be very careful about what you share. And think twice, she said, about ever sharing your location.
Other safety tips for social media, offered by the TCU Department of Public Safety:
- If possible, make your accounts private
- Don’t accept a friend request from someone you don’t know, even if they follow your friends
- Never engage in messaging with someone you don’t know
- Occasionally, do an edit of your followers and delete those you don’t personally know
- Avoid sharing your location and only post photos after you have left the location
TCU’s CARE office is a resource for anyone on campus who feels they are being harassed through social media or even for those who may just want guidance when it comes to their social media usage.
Social Media Health
It’s not hard to go down the rabbit hole of social media. Notifications pop up, and the urge to click is just too great. Before you know it, 30 minutes or more have passed.
“Social media can be a great resource to network and learn, but like everything, it’s important to use it in moderation,” Carnahan said. “Social media, especially if you make it your only source, can become an addiction.”
Carnahan cautions that if you find that you’re not doing other things that you like or need to do, or if you’re always late or canceling plans because you’ve given in to the social media pull, consider taking a break.
“Turn off or silence those notifications. Make tech-free time, especially meals,” she said. “Or choose to engage only when you’re on a certain device or during set times.
If you feel you may be experiencing stalking, extortion or other danger, contact TCU Police immediately at 817-257-7777.