5 Life-Ruining Ways You Can Be Victimized Online
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 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.
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 , but many of us are sharing way too much about ourselves 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.
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 , which includes steps like deleting unwanted online accounts and hiding personal social details .
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.
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 . 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.
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 , PayPal scams , and eBay scams . Scams on social media are also a big risk, including those irresistable gift card scams . Even something as innocent as a charity can be a scam .
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 .
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.
Facebook hacks and computer hacks are common, but they aren’t the only things at risk. Video game accounts , like Steam, can be hacked and stolen. Even physical devices can be hacked as evidenced by insecure webcams and hacked smart TVs .
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 , but one of the most common ways is by using a keylogger and other kinds of malware. That’s why it’s so important that you regularly scan for viruses . That includes your phone , too.
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 . 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.
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 .
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