Some time ago, a college-age friend of our daughter arrived at our house very late at night. Another friend, who was away at college, stayed on the phone with her until she arrived at our door, came in and locked it behind her.
What happened to scare the wits out of a normally levelheaded young woman? A couple of months earlier, she “met” a man in a, supposedly, safe chat room. She thought they hit it off right away. He counseled her, and she began to reveal her heart to him, along with a picture, her address and her phone number.
They began to talk on the phone several times a day. She actually thought she was falling for this guy. Then, he began to try to call her at work, where she doesn’t carry her phone, and got angry when he couldn’t reach her. He started talking marriage one minute, then put her off the next with “you’re too young for me and need time to grow.” She’s in her early twenties.
When he was on the phone he sounded so good, but after she got off the phone she began to realize things he said just didn’t add up. The real trouble came when she tried to break it off. He began to call non-stop. Though he lived across the country, he talked about coming to where she lived and of smashing a car into her house, about following her, and about brushing up against her in her daily life. Some of his calls were angry, others rambling and left her in dread. Especially since he’d told her, he’d come out of gang life.
As we drew her out, my husband and I pointed out the flaws in his story and concluded that much of what he’d told her must be a lie. However, we also cautioned her to take care. Our advice then, report him if the threat gets more specific, and do not under any circumstances talk to him again. The next day, she changed her phone number. Two weeks later, she left to continue her education in a different town.
She would be the first to tell others that, though there is much good on the Internet, care must be taken. There is no safe chat room. No monitor, however careful, can truly know if the person checking in is who he/she claims. No matter how much we may think we’ve come to know someone on the other end of that email, we don’t. Many spin fictional lives on the Internet to catch the unwary, the vulnerable, and all-to-often the young in a web of deception and bondage.
This young woman got away in time and learned a valuable lesson in the process. Others haven’t and disappeared forever.
Here are a few suggestions.
- Realize no chat room is really safe and that anyone on the Internet can pose as anyone he/she pleases.
- Never give out personal information, address or phone number.
- Don’t trust pictures or biographical information sent.
- If you have children, always monitor their computer usage.
- Know who they email and how they know this person.
- And never, never go alone to meet someone you’ve hooked up with on the Internet.
Does that mean we can’t ever develop a friendship with someone on the Internet? Of course not, but proceed with caution. Don’t take anyone met in a chat room at face value. A better way is to be introduced by someone you do know and trust.
As always, it is better to be safe, than very, very sorry.