Meeting strangers online to complete a deal can leave you vulnerable to serious crime, experts say. In this report, we detail you on how you can stay safe while using the Internet
The rise in online crime is becoming alarming. Many individuals have been deceived, defrauded or even killed in the process of conducting business with their online friends. Experts say innocent citizens who fall prey to online criminals may be individuals with little or no understanding of how to apply caution when dealing with others online.
The murder of Cynthia Osokogu by her Facebook friends, which made the headlines in virtually all national dailies, is a familiar case of online abuse. According to media reports, Cynthia was an enterprising lady, who was doing well in business. A reader of THE PUNCH, Chief Taofeek Sanni, described her as “an amazon who proved this by the things she achieved during her short life.” He notes that her life was like a fairy tale. According to this reader, that the Nigeria Police Force was able to quickly apprehend Cynthia’s alleged killers and arraign them was like a scene from a movie. “Were it not for her murder, we would never have known that there were such vile characters luring innocent souls to early graves,” he said.
But Cynthia’s case might just be a fraction of the vulnerable acts perpetuated by online criminals and fraudsters. The Sun of London, United Kingdom, on Thursday reported how a 27-year old medical student, Miss Carmel Carbery, survived a sex attack after she posted an ad on classifieds site Gumtree. Though she had bravely waived her anonymity to tell of her terrible ordeal, Carbery was quoted as saying “I never imagined posting an advert on Gumtree could result in the worst experience of my life. I am slowly recovering from the assault but I desperately want to warn other people of the dangers.” According to the newspaper, Carbery is currently backing a campaign to highlight the potential dangers posed by classified ads on the internet.
As a result of these inhumane acts carried out on unsuspecting users of the internet, experts have called on users to apply caution when dealing with other people online. They note that the internet can be a dangerous place if you do not take the right precautions while using it. They advise that you must understand that no stranger should be trusted when conducting online deals.
Experts stress that a lot of individuals fall victim to online criminals and fraudsters and many of the victims hardly come out to speak of their ordeals. Online victims fail to speak up because of the fear of being stigmatised. Experts note that it is, therefore, important to always apply all necessary precautions because you do not know who is seated behind the other screen chatting with you.
Below are some important tips that that can help you stay safe online, according to experts:
•Meet in the public
It is not advisable to meet with someone you do not know in the private. Irrespective of the proximity you may have garnered while chatting with this individual online, you should not arrange to meet him or her in private on your first face-to-face date. Experts note that when you arrange to meet a seller, choose somewhere public like a coffee shop and, if you can, take someone with you.
This, they say, is in order to forestall any act of intimidation, assault or fraud. The individual may have posed to be a saint while chatting with you, but may decide to implement his or her criminal acts when he meets with you, especially when both of you meet in private.
This is important for individuals involved in the business of buying and selling. Though there are trustworthy individuals to deal with online, the rising nature of online fraud has made it necessary for business men and women to deal face-to-face with their partners. The Managing Director, Nathconcept, an Infotech Company in Ojo, Lagos, Mr. Jonathan Ikechukwu, says most victims of online fraud were individuals swindled by criminals who requested that their transactions be concluded online. He notes that online users should endeavour to meet physically with whoever they are dealing with.
•Be satisfied before making payments
Experts say you should make sure you are completely satisfied with whatever item you are buying before handing over any money to the other party. You must be happy with the deal before you make any payment, otherwise you may have yourself to blame in the end.
•Limit what you give out
Be strict when it comes to giving out anything to the other party. You should not give too much away. According to experts, you should only give minimum necessary personal information to sellers and buyers on the site. This is to protect your individuality and keep your secrets secret.
•Never carry too much cash
Online professionals say you should never carry large sums of money when trying to buy things from someone you met online. For individuals wishing to buy something expensive, it is advisable to meet the seller and view the item first before offering any cash to him.
•Use your common sense
If the transaction sounds too good to be true, quit. Experts say you should not hesitate to contact the website you are using immediately you notice anything suspicious. You may get useful advice that will help track a culprit or better still, halt the transaction.
via Okechukwu Nnodim