Over recent weeks we have been made aware that there are some rather warped (in my opinion) individuals that are searching for new ways to prey and harass people via IM. This is not happening solely on our site -- but apparently is a new *trend* that is popping up throughout the internet. Some sites are even spouting it as a *game* to play.
The scenarios vary:
The *advertised* advice to *play* is to do a simple search through the chosen IM member directory. They can put in a variety of variables to narrow it down to a particular gender, age range, etc. They then can do a google search to find where that particular member name is showing up and then use that information to lure a person to add them. Other methods use a search through various communities, myspace, blogs, or a wide variety of avenues to find new usernames to add to their IM list. Many times they will create a brand new account purely for this *fun*.
They may claim to be from Pregnancy.org (or a friend from myspace, or a reader of your blog, etc.) to convince you to add them.
The next steps appear to vary -- from general conversation to more explicit talk. Almost all attempt to end up in harassment, flooding with pornography links, and more. Obviously those that are victims feel upset and as if their trust has been violated.
While we recognize that we cannot control anyone's choices regarding the information you share online, we do have the following recommendations:
We *recommend* that you no longer include any IM information within your profile at Pregnancy.org. Those opting to do so should recognize that this information is available to members and non-members alike.
We additionally recommend that you change your security settings on your IM (whether MSN, AOL, yahoo, etc.) -- to accept messages only from those on your *buddylist*. Don't accept requests to add new users. (You can add friends yourself.)
Use caution in choosing those that you add to your IM list. If you want to confirm that it is someone that is TRULY from Pregnancy.org -- pm them onsite. This eliminates anyone from claiming to be someone that they are not and you will have a real record of those that you wish to communicate with. You can then add that person to your memberlist (and at the same time let them know your IM username.)
Offsite -- PLEASE use common sense about the information you have posted -- whether on blogs, myspace (or similar), online journals, etc. Don't post your IM, email, full names, locations, names of where you live, work, etc. Use general terms instead.
Don't get a false sense of security in so-called *private* settings. Unless you personally know each and every person in real life, unfortunately the reality of the net is that you need to safeguard your personal information.
Finally -- don't allow these type of people to keep you from enjoying the wealth of GOOD things that the internet has to offer -- from support, encouragement, education, inspiration -- i.e. Pregnancy.org -- or from time to time -- those *other* sites (*ahem -- I mean like Recipes.com to find what's for dinner or Realtor.com for those wishing to go surfing for my dream home!! LOL) Bottom line is that you ARE able to enjoy being online. Just use some common sense when doing so.
If anyone has questions or concerns please don't hesitate to drop me a note at [email]email@example.com[/email]