Safety Issues: Email

Here is a page with literally hundreds of articles on safety in all sort of places and situations. Well worth reading!  http://www.minneapolismn.gov/police/crimeprevention/

Email dangers fall into two categories: 1. Messages that try to trick you into clicking something, and 2. Messages that contain programming or threats.

There is a lot of information on the Internet on how to deal with spam that may be dangerous. I’ll try and summarize the main points. But I want stress that this kind of email has nothing to do with whether you are a survivor or not – everybody gets it.

Basically, somebody has gotten your address from somewhere and is sending you messages hoping you will think they are illegitimate. They may want you to read ads or they may want to get into your computer and use it for their own purposes. They might want to copy all the addresses in your email address book and send out spam with your name as the return address. Worse yet, they may put a little program on your computer that records every key stroke. That way they can collect passwords for bank accounts, charge card numbers, etc.

Be very careful before opening an attachment in an email or clicking on a url. If you have a feeling that there is something “off” about a particular message, trust your instincts and be cautious. It is far more important to protect yourself than it is to be polite and answer every e-letter.

Here are some examples of things that made me suspicious.
1. Weird senders: potent @comfortlife.eu
cartesian @impiantidepurazioneprefabbricati.eu
streptothricin @investinspain.eu
lovelifeplus @vertiadier.xyz
2. Weird titles: things I have zero interest in. Injured — Find– a– personal    injury-attorney — to–get–what is deserved
++ Check Out A Private Yacht Experience ++
3. Nothing except a url to click in the body of the message. This often comes from a person you know because their address has been stolen.

Moral of the story: Don’t click and you will be safe! (And have good anti-virus software.)

The other category, messages that contain programming or threats, can be harder to deal with because there is no one practical rule (like don’t click) that fits all.

The first step is to learn to recognize this type of email. A red flag is a message from a person you have been out of touch with for a long time, especially if it is a family member or somebody you have always felt uncomfortable around.  Another red flag is if you start to feel trancy, dizzy, nauseated, frightened, or just plain uneasy when you start to read it.

This might indicate that the message, whether by accident or on purpose, has touched an issue of yours or triggered a program. In this case, stop reading and either delete the message or save it to analyze later or to show to your therapist. Do something to get back into the present — move around, wash your face, drink something cold — whatever works for you. Promise yourself you will not finish reading it now and you will not act on any suggestions contained in the message or any sudden urges you may have. Ask inside if that is okay with everybody and ask what else they need to feel protected. Later on, you can try and figure out what got triggered and how.

Other times, you may start to get an uncomfortable feeling about a particular person. As in “real life” relationships, it’s wisest to go slow and not reveal a lot about yourself in the beginning. You can always share more later. It’s perfectly okay to say, “I’m not in a place right now for this kind of correspondence” or simply to let the e-relationship fizzle out. It’s also okay to delete emails before reading them.

If an email contains a threat, there are two additional things you can do. You can report it to the police, which may or may not help, depending on the nature of the threat, the department, and the particular officer you report it to. You can also report it to the ISP (Internet Service Provider,) the company that the writer uses to send email. For details on how to do this, contact the Webmaster or Postmaster at that ISP. ISP’s are not happy about people misusing their services and they may close that person’s account. Since they are concerned with their reputations, they are often more responsive than the police.

You could also answer that person once, saying, “Do not write me any more. If you do, I will report you to the police.” If you are trying to collect evidence, put any other emails received in a folder without reading them. Otherwise, delete messages without reading them or block the address (black listing).

The hardest part of dealing with frightening email is refusing to read it. It’s natural to feel that if you knew what you were being threatened with you could better protect yourself. But the game they are playing with you us called bullying, and you will be playing into their hands if you let them know they have gotten to you or you allow them frighten you. It’s far better and more effective to walk away with your head held high.

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