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The Internet can be a dangerous place. Despite the illusion, the Internet is not as anonymous as you might think it is. The truth is, if somebody wants to find out who you are and where you live, even the tiniest bit of information can lead back to you. And when that happens, the results are rarely good.

Plenty of Internet crimes From The Web To Jail: 6 Types of Computer Crimes You Can Get Arrested For From The Web To Jail: 6 Types of Computer Crimes You Can Get Arrested For Governments across the world have tried to tame the Internet as a tempest of new technology threatens everything from strict government censorship and control over the media to entrenched media conglomerates and old concepts of... Read More have been committed by those who thought they could evade the law, but the trend of the past few years has been towards victims who thought they were safe behind that illusion of anonymity.

Whether due to cyber bullying or personal vendettas, what’s sad is that people have actually had their lives ruined by crafty Internet villains. Here’s what you need to know if you don’t want to be the next victim.

Being Doxed

The scariest aspect of the Internet is just how much personal information we’re putting out there for free. It’s one thing if you’re selling it for profit I Make $2000 A Year Selling My Personal Information, You Can Too I Make $2000 A Year Selling My Personal Information, You Can Too Don't be one of those suckers that sells their information for nothing! Read More , but many of us are sharing way too much about ourselves Online Privacy: Do You Share Too Much Information? Online Privacy: Do You Share Too Much Information? Sharing has always been a prominent part of what the Internet is and how it functions. And with social networks exploding in popularity in the past several years, sharing is probably the one aspect we... Read More and we do it so casually. Eventually, that level of openness can come back and bite you in the rear if somebody decides to dox you.

Doxing (occasionally referred to as “doxxing”) is when somebody scours the Internet in search of somebody’s personal information and releases a compilation of their finds. Think of it as creating a dossier of someone with the sole purpose of making private details public. Doxing is a serious breach of privacy and is often followed up with more nefarious actions.

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For a notable example of this, jump back to 2012 when Reddit user violentacrez was doxed by Gawker’s Adrien Chen for running a community that shared photos of jailbait — provocatively dressed teen girls who are under the age of consent. The result: violentacrez was fired from his job and suffered through numerous death threats.

And then there’s Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old girl who was doxed and harassed so heavily that she was driven to suicide.

Regardless of where you fall on the “ethics of doxing” spectrum, it can’t be denied that doxing has serious real-life consequences. That’s why it’s critical that you understand how to protect yourself against doxing What Is Doxing & How Does It Affect Your Privacy? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is Doxing & How Does It Affect Your Privacy? [MakeUseOf Explains] Internet privacy is a huge deal. One of the stated perks of the Internet is that you can remain anonymous behind your monitor as you browse, chat, and do whatever it is that you do.... Read More , which includes steps like deleting unwanted online accounts 3 Resources For Deleting Your Unwanted Online Accounts 3 Resources For Deleting Your Unwanted Online Accounts Delete unused user accounts for web apps you've abandoned. Don't leave personal information in the hands of services you're not using. Find out how to get rid of such accounts, then do it. However, deleting... Read More and hiding personal social details How To Hide Your Personal Information On Facebook How To Hide Your Personal Information On Facebook In the age of the Internet, privacy is a luxury and you have to constantly be on your heels to maintain it. Facebook makes it particularly hard for users to guard their personal data. Despite... Read More .

Being Swatted

Though the term sounds silly, swatting is a severe problem. Simply put, swatting is a “prank” that involves calling emergency services and supplying false information in order to get them to invade a particular person’s house. It’s most often done as a form of revenge.

For example, a swat prank might involve calling 9-1-1 and claiming that Joe Schmoe just shot his parents and is barricading himself at home. Meanwhile, Joe Schmoe is sitting at home, innocently playing video games. Next thing he knows, a SWAT team is busting down his door and pointing guns at him. Hence, swatting.

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What some people don’t realize is that swatting is a felony, at least in the United States. It wastes valuable emergency personnel and resources on a false claim, making them unavailable if a real emergency were to occur elsewhere.

But what’s worse: since these “prank” calls are taken seriously, there’s always the possibility of a startled victim acting irrationally, resulting in the SWAT team firing upon them. At best, swatting is an inconvenience, but at worst, it can end with lives lost.

Recent years have seen an increase in swatting pranks, especially on livestreaming websites like Twitch 7 Twitch Streamers To Watch If eSports Aren't Your Thing 7 Twitch Streamers To Watch If eSports Aren't Your Thing If you don't like eSports and you've written off Twitch as "not for you," it's time to reconsider. These entertaining Twitch streamers aren't associated with eSports in any way. Read More . Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do to prevent someone from swatting you, though there is some comfort in knowing that the types of folk who would swat another person are rarely smart enough to escape subsequent arrest.

Being Scammed

If there’s one thing you should always look out for, it’s scams. They hide in every corner of the Internet and they’ll sneak up on you when you’re least expecting it. Not all scams are devastating but plenty of them are, so you can never be too careful. If something has even the slightest hint of shadiness to it, do reconsider.

Online shopping markets are an obvious place for this. You have to be vigilant for Craigslist scams Taking The Battle To Craigslist Scammers: How To Avoid Scams On Craigslist Taking The Battle To Craigslist Scammers: How To Avoid Scams On Craigslist Launched way back in 1995, Craigslist took the Internet world by storm with its innovative cross of classified ads with the web. But as with all Internet-based transactions, some users prefer to game the system... Read More , PayPal scams How Scammers Target Your PayPal Account & How To Never Fall For It How Scammers Target Your PayPal Account & How To Never Fall For It PayPal is one of the most important accounts you have online. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge PayPal fan, but when it comes to your money, you don’t want to play around. While... Read More , and eBay scams 5 eBay Scams To Be Aware Of 5 eBay Scams To Be Aware Of Being scammed sucks, especially on eBay. You invest all of that time into selling a particular product or you spend a lot of time researching the perfect item, complete the transaction, and then… nothing. The... Read More . Scams on social media How To Identify A Facebook Scam Before It's Too Late How To Identify A Facebook Scam Before It's Too Late Read More are also a big risk, including those irresistable gift card scams How To Recognize And Avoid Free Gift Card Scams How To Recognize And Avoid Free Gift Card Scams These types of scams are almost always supposedly sent out by seemingly trustworthy sites such as Amazon or eBay, and much like the web URL, they may appear to be sent by the sites themselves.... Read More . Even something as innocent as a charity can be a scam 5 Online Scams To Be Aware Of This Christmas 5 Online Scams To Be Aware Of This Christmas It is the season of cheer and joy, but there are malicious people out there who will capitalize on your good spirits to scam you out of a lot of money. Stay alert. Read More .

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If you are scammed, the best you can hope for is a few lost dollars and some inconvenience as you work things out. It’s often worse than that, however, and a simple scam could lead to something as devastating as full-blown identity theft 6 Warning Signs Of Digital Identity Theft You Shouldn't Ignore 6 Warning Signs Of Digital Identity Theft You Shouldn't Ignore Identity theft isn't too rare of an occurrence these days, yet we often fall into the trap of thinking that it'll always happen to "someone else". Don't ignore the warning signs. Read More .

We recommend that you brush up on these fraud prevention tips 3 Online Fraud Prevention Tips You Need To Know In 2014 3 Online Fraud Prevention Tips You Need To Know In 2014 Read More and change your bad security habits Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Read More before it’s too late.

Being Hacked

Hacking can mean a whole bunch of things today, so for the purposes of this post, let’s define it like so: when someone gains access to your property, such as a web account, without your knowledge and against your will. It’s typically done by exploiting a security weakness but not always.

Technically, if someone tricks you into giving out your password, you’ve been scammed. If they figure out your password, or gain access without needing the password at all, then you’ve been hacked.

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Facebook hacks 4 Things To Do Immediately When Your Facebook Account Is Hacked 4 Things To Do Immediately When Your Facebook Account Is Hacked For most people, having their Facebook account hacked is a nightmare. Imagine if someone had access to all your private messages, could contact your friends, abuse your Facebook page, and delete your personal information. To... Read More and computer hacks What To Do If You Think Your Computer Has Been Hacked Into What To Do If You Think Your Computer Has Been Hacked Into Have you ever had your computer hacked, or wondered if some off mouse movement was down to an online intruder? The threat remains a potent one, but with adequate security software installed on your computer... Read More are common, but they aren’t the only things at risk. Video game accounts How Are Video Game Accounts Hacked & What Can You Do To Protect Yourself? How Are Video Game Accounts Hacked & What Can You Do To Protect Yourself? Game accounts have been the targets of hackers for years, but as more games go online or require account verification the stakes are only rising. Having your account hacked could mean hours of lost work... Read More , like Steam, can be hacked and stolen. Even physical devices can be hacked as evidenced by insecure webcams Hack Attack: How To Keep Your Webcam Secure From Online Peeping Toms Hack Attack: How To Keep Your Webcam Secure From Online Peeping Toms What would you do if someone had control of your webcam without your knowledge? Fortunately, there are ways to keep yourself clean from these online peeping Toms. Read More and hacked smart TVs Smart TVs Are A Growing Security Risk: How Do You Deal With This? Smart TVs Are A Growing Security Risk: How Do You Deal With This? Read More .

Sure, it might not be a big deal if your Skype account is taken over, but what if someone accessed your Dropbox and deleted everything — or worse, stole everything and sold it all? What if somebody zeroed all of your bank accounts? What if, after hacking into your account and posing as you, somebody committed a few crimes?

There are several ways to hack someone’s password The 5 Most Common Tactics Used To Hack Passwords The 5 Most Common Tactics Used To Hack Passwords When you think of a serious security threat, you may think of some clever malicious program that steals your data or takes over computer. In reality, you’re just as (if not more) likely to be... Read More , but one of the most common ways is by using a keylogger Don't Fall Victim to Keyloggers: Use These Important Anti-Keylogger Tools Don't Fall Victim to Keyloggers: Use These Important Anti-Keylogger Tools In cases of online identity theft, keyloggers play one of the most important roles in the actual act of stealing. If you’ve ever had an online account stolen from you - whether it was for... Read More and other kinds of malware. That’s why it’s so important that you regularly scan for viruses How Accurate Are These 4 Big Name Virus Scanners? How Accurate Are These 4 Big Name Virus Scanners? Read More . That includes your phone Has Your Android Phone Been Infected with Malware? Has Your Android Phone Been Infected with Malware? How does malware get on an Android device? After all, most users only install apps through the Play Store, and Google keeps a tight watch over that to make sure malware doesn't squeeze through, right?... Read More , too.

Being Uploaded

If you’re the kind of person who engages in risqué behavior like taking nude selfies or making intimate home videos, then you should be well aware of revenge porn What Is Revenge Porn, And Are You At Risk From It? What Is Revenge Porn, And Are You At Risk From It? Read More . If those sensitive files get into the wrong hands and are uploaded to the Internet, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to delete them.

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Sometimes, it isn’t even driven by revenge. There are plenty of anecdotes where photos and videos were lifted from hard drives at computer repair shops. The same happens in mobile phone repair as well. Your racy media can even be stolen indirectly, as was the case when celebrity nudes were leaked from Snapchat 4 Ways To Avoid Being Hacked Like A Celebrity 4 Ways To Avoid Being Hacked Like A Celebrity Leaked celebrity nudes in 2014 made headlines around the world. Make sure it doesn't happen to you with these tips. Read More .

Final Thoughts

The Internet is one of the most revolutionary innovations in the history of man. There’s no doubt that much good has come from it. That being said, it doesn’t come without its risks. For your own sake, be aware that the Internet can ruin your life and think twice before you do anything.

Has the Internet negatively impacted you? What steps do you take so that you don’t become a victim yourself? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Mouse Tied Hands Via Shutterstock, Shadowy Person Via Shutterstock, SWAT Team Via Shutterstock, Secure Credit Cards Via Shutterstock, Dark Hacker Via Shutterstock, Sexting Woman Via Shutterstock

  1. KT
    December 29, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    I guess the worst thing that happened to me was: 8 years ago or so, I was using xp and was on an 'adult' themed site when the power went out. My firewall must have went down first, because when I booted back up, I had over 1400 problems with my os. I made the switch to Linux after that and use all the great firefox privacy ad-ons I can find. No problems since. Thankfully, no sensitive info was compromised.

    • Joel Lee
      December 30, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      That must've been terrifying as an 8-year-old, lol. But if it taught you about privacy/security and there weren't any lasting ill effects or stolen data, then I guess we can say you profited from the experience.

    • g.m.nelson
      January 10, 2015 at 8:22 pm

      joel: he said 8 years ago NOT 8 years old

    • Joel Lee
      January 18, 2015 at 12:15 am

      Hahaha, oh man. That's my bad! Sometimes my brain goes out of whack like that. :P

  2. dragonmouth
    December 29, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Many of us DO reveal too much about ourselves online. However, much of data about even the most reticent of us is available to be harvested from "public" databases. That is the data that we had to provide when filling out numerous applications, when visiting doctors or being admitted to hospitals, when shopping. In spite of the supposed safeguards of laws like HIPAA, our personal information is available online to just about anybody that requests it or is willing to do minimum of digging. Why are private companies allowed to know more about us then we do ourselves?

    • Joel Lee
      December 30, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      Yeah, public databases are troublesome. The amount of effort required (not much at all) to dig up even the most sensitive details is astonishing. I'm not sure what we can do about it though. What are your ideas, if any?

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