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Providing Photos and Personal Information

A site visitor writes:

In informal communications through a game message board I frequent, a man I helped in another country with some of the questions he posted replied to me to thank me and then he asked about my age(!) and for a photo of me.

I said I was glad to help and that I was sixteen. Two days have passed since and I don’t know what’s the appropriate way to handle this. I would feel rather uncomfortable giving out photos. But I feel I have to reply to him rather than let the messages “grow old” and let him assume I am not interested, I don’t care e.t.c.

Could you please help me out in this situation? I don’t of course want you to write the email for me, but some advice to point me into the right direction would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much for your attention and your time.

I am so glad you wrote me about this very important issue!

Do not send him a picture and do not communicate further with him. To get questions like that makes me believe his motives are questionable especially when asked of someone under the age of 18. That could be why you haven’t heard from him. You are underage.

There is no need to know your age or have a picture of you for forum support. Let the emails grow older – better yet delete them and don’t respond at all. You shouldn’t feel you have to reply to everyone who emails you. Especially folks you really do not know. Actually, this applies to anyone — regardless of age.

Let’s play devil’s advocate…

Why would you be interested? You don’t know this person. These are odd questions that usually are asked only after much longer communications and where time and consistency have built some level of trust. Being you cannot prove if they are in another country (or the next block over from your house), you need to be extremely careful with your trust and information – on or off-line.

Unless he posts publicly to the forum again, you are under no obligation to have to reply to his unasked for personal questions via private email.

In response to future similar request, let the person know that you do not provide your photo or personal information to strangers and that if they need further assistance with the game to use the forum as a way to get the support he needs.

Private Messages in Forums

This is how I handle private messages in forums where I offer my help. When I receive private messages for support from folks I don’t know, I reply:

Please post your questions publicly in the appropriate forum. This way any answers you receive can benefit the other members of the Community who may run into the same issues. Thank you! 😉

The one thing I have learned in my over 20 years of being online is that you cannot trust or believe folks you do not know — no matter how nice or sincere they may seem. Never give out your age or any personal information to anyone online (regardless of your age — or their supposed location). They don’t need to know any of that to discuss games, ideas or have conversations with you.

If they get upset when you don’t want to provide a photo or more information, that is a clue to just delete any future emails and make your parents and/or ISP aware of the situation.

Get the word out...