Avoid VoIP Cyberharassment

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The anonymity of cyberspace makes it the perfect environment for stalkers and predators. Unwary users of popular IM and voice over IP applications (voip) can become targets of unwanted attention from strangers. Voip.com provides guidance for avoiding cyberharassment.

Instant messaging and voice over IP (voip) programs are useful communication tools for both individuals and businesses, but they may also put users at risk for online harassment and cyberstalking. Voip Internet phone service provider voip.com offers important guidance on how to stay safe in the voiposphere.

In 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) responded to 228,407 cyber complaints, including incidents of harassment and stalking. While most people view programs like Skype, ICQ, and Yahoo Messenger as a great way to keep in touch with friends, family or business contacts, others see them as fertile hunting grounds.

In fact, even chatbots aren’t safe. In the Skype user forums, there’s a report of a company setting up a Skype chatbot demonstration for one of their clients. Within the first few hours it was online, chatbot Sara_VN1 had been propositioned by well over 20 strange men, all looking for a cybersex hookup or a face-to-face meeting. None of the would-be Lotharios took the time to read the bot’s profile, which clearly stated Sara_VN1’s AI status.

Members worried about coming off as rude or who need to accept incoming chats from people they don’t necessarily know may find themselves inundated with persistent and inappropriate messages, even after they’ve firmly indicated no desire for continued contact.

Skype users can set their privacy settings to only allow calls and chats from people already on their Contacts list. In addition, unwanted callers can be permanently blocked. Disabling SkypeMe mode is another way to avoid intrusive calls.

The FBI’s Cyber Investigations division recommends creating gender-neutral online names and email addresses, which are usually the first thing that catches a predator’s eye. Free email accounts like Google, Yahoo, or Hotmail add another layer of protection between you and harassers. Use these accounts for chat rooms, IM accounts, message boards, newsgroups and mailing lists. Reserve your primary email address for communication with trusted contacts only. It’s also important not to give out identifying personal information, or anything that might allow someone to pinpoint your geographic location, since persistent stalkers have been known to take cyber harassment offline. Finally, don’t hesitate to use the block filter on your messaging or voip software.

For more information about voip and safety, turn to voip.com’s extensive online repository of voip-related information: http://www.voip.com.


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Camie Gontier
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