If you are online, you are always at risk of communicating with someone who is pretending to be someone else. In a time of technology and globalization, social media has enabled traffickers to reach everyone, and this is why you need to be a step ahead with a few simple actions of your own.

Be wise about friend requests

It is always safer to accept requests from people you know in real life. Do not connect with someone you do not know, even if they have a cool profile and sound friendly. This decreases the chance of finding yourself in an unsafe situation.

Protect your privacy and personal information

Avoid sharing personal information (contact information, address, school location, where you like to hang out) online that could be misused by someone in real life. Check your privacy settings and make sure your account is secure.

Be careful about the posts and photos you share

It is always best to share photos that show you and your friends in a positive light. If you are a tween or teen, avoid posting suggestive or inappropriate photos for all to see. Always remember that once a photo is uploaded, it is no longer private and can be seen by anyone anywhere, even if you decide to delete it afterwards. If you are sexting or sending suggestive photos of yourself to a boyfriend or girlfriend, they could be used against you for cyberbullying and blackmail purposes.

Words matter!

Think about what comments you write to others. Do not leave room for misinterpretation. It is always wiser to write something when you are calm. If you are feeling emotional, you might end up writing comments you will regret. Take a step back and give yourself some time.

Block anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe

This prevents people you do not want contact with from getting in touch with you and seeing your profile. It is up to you to create boundaries. You need them in all aspects of your relationships, remember that!

Here are a few red flags that indicate the person getting in touch with you is someone you should stay away from:  

    1. No friends or followers
    2. Avoids meetings and video chats
    3. Their profile picture is too good to be true
    4. Claims to have met you but you do not remember
    5. Appears love-struck and gets serious way too fast
    6. Wants to find out as much about you as they can
    7. Does not give much information about themselves or their stories seem far-fetched or too vague
    8. Sends you DMs that seem ‘off’

    In addition to these signs, follow your gut—that inner voice that tells you something feels out of sync or is making you uncomfortable.

    It usually is right!

    ► Take a short security checklist here to find out if you are keeping safe online.