Personal Safety and my relationship with the internet Part 2

Folks these days give out way too much information about themselves, especially on the internet. If you’ve ever had a stalker, you know the harsh reality of giving a little too much away. Most people have no idea what it’s like to be terrorized by someone. However, it seems to be more and more common these days, especially in the case of cyber bullying. Why? Let’s think about that for a moment…

Photo: Circe Denyer

I call it the drive-through theory. I worked at a Dairy Queen for a while, and now and then I had to work the drive through window. It’s so easy to speak harshly and be nasty to the person at the other end of that intercom as a customer. You don’t have to see the shock on their face when you’re rude, and you can sit there and laugh at your own bullying behavior from the comfort of your car seat. But, when you get up to that window and see me face to face, now all of a sudden you want to smile and be friendly. Now, maybe you wonder if I’m spitting in your burger or shake. NOW, you want to be kind, cooperative, and well… not a jerk.

Photo: George Hodan
Photo: George Hodan

Now picture yourself where you’re probably sitting. You’re behind a screen. You could easily reply to this very blog post with nastiness with no threat of me punching you in the face for rudeness. I probably won’t be able to reply right away, and if I did, you don’t have to see my hurt or anger that would give you the guilt you might feel if you had seen the look my face. Unless they’re purely evil, nobody wants to really be the bad guy or gal.  But, we all are when it comes to online communication whether we mean to be or not sometimes.  How many times have you typed a comment that got taken completely out of context because they couldn’t hear your inflection of voice?  I think we’ve all experienced a little hurt from that kind of thing whether it’s an instant message, text, or email.  But, I digress again, and I promised you a good story…

I was young, naive, and working in a bar.  Two gentlemen noticed me as a new employee and of good character.  They were bounty hunters, and quite good at their job, as I found out.  One of them had even been on TV before a man named Dog was ever discovered.  He was a bit of a local legend.  These guys decided to teach me a little lesson.  They asked for me to speak with them.  You could even say they targeted me.  They told me right away who they were and what they did.  They asked me what I knew about my personal safety.  I told them I had some good teachers on the subject and was able to keep myself perfectly safe.

car clip artThat’s when they decided to prove me wrong, and prove me wrong they did, indeed.  They told me that anyone (that means you, too) only needs two pieces of information about someone to find them anywhere in the Americas.  Oh, I was confident these guys couldn’t get a one up on me.  I thought I was good.  Well, I was young and naive, remember?  I talked to them for about 10 minutes.  The bar closed and we went our separate ways.  I watched my back that night coming out of the bar.  I swear I thought someone was following me.  I took my precautions and lost my tail, but I think the damage was done.

From end of shift one day to beginning of the next, I thought I had won.  Nope.  I clocked in and there they were.  They called me over.  They gave me my life story.  They had my birthday, birth place, my parent’s address, previous addresses… information right down to the hospital I was born in and time of birth!  The only thing they couldn’t find was my current residence.  There’s a reason they couldn’t find that.  I told you I was careful, right?  Actually, they did find my current residence as part of their information packet they provided.  They had no idea I was actually living in a storage unit at the time.

So, in less than 18 hours, they found out everything they needed to know about me that they needed to know to cause me harm and never get caught.  They found their two pieces of information in talking to me.  What did I give them?  The state I was born in and the day and month of my birthday.  I refused to give them the year.  I do suspect that was them behind me driving where they got my license plate and got everything they needed, but I can’t be sure.  From that, they could write my diary for me.  For that matter, they could probably blog for me in my name.

Well, obviously, this all scared the hell out of me.  ANYONE could find me.  Anyone could find me at any time.  I was shaken.  They were good, and they knew it.  Any private investigator would have the same connections they did.  Any potential stalker could get to me.

Photo: Charles Rondeau
Photo: Charles Rondeau

They left me with some good advice.  Although I had given them a “nickname” to take precautions, I needed one not quite so close to my own should I feel the need to use one again.  I shouldn’t actually give my personal stories to strangers, and more importantly, no personal information, especially vital statistics.  We all know not to give some random stranger our Social Security number, but your birth date is a huge clue.  Your phone number (ladies, I’m looking at you…) gives the wrong person all they need to know about you down to your social security number.  That licence plate?  Yeah, that gives them phone, SS number, address, maiden name, etc.

What does all this have to do with internet safety?  You still have your birthday listed on Facebook, don’t you?  You still have pictures of your pets with name included.  Please, tell me you don’t use them for your bank password?  Your kid’s birthday party is in your posts online, isn’t it?  They know he just turned 9.  Your stalker is now in your bank account if he really wanted to be if you’ve used any of that information as a password.  Now what if you get a psycho involved in chat online?  He’ll be on your doorstep soon, if he has a problem with boundaries.  Stay tuned for part 3 of this series where I tell you how the police came knocking on my door at 3 a.m. because of an online game.  Maybe in my next post, I’ll also tell you how a stalker from Texas terrorized a girl in Ireland and how I helped get rid of her stalker for good.

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