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Don’t Trust Online Strangers Who Act Like Friends

Don't trust strangers who act like friends online.

In general, folks are too trusting. When online, you should be the polar opposite. Don’t trust anyone or any website until you can verify that they are trustworthy and credible.

This is a difficult task, though. Great-looking websites can be scammers. In addition, social media, groups, and discussion boards contain people who there is no way to verify their credibility or sincerity.

Someone you’ve been communicating with that makes you feel that they “get you” could have ulterior motives. Happens all the time.

Refrain From Providing Photos and Personal Information Online

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 how to handle this appropriately. 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, etc.

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 in the right direction would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much for your attention and your time.
Site Visitor

I am so glad you wrote me about this critical issue! With more folks online and relying on those connections for friendship, things can go south quickly.

Do not send him a picture, and do not communicate further with him. Getting questions like that makes me believe his motives are questionable, especially when asked of someone under 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. Primarily, folks, you do not know. 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.

You are under no obligation to reply to unasked-for personal questions via private email. In response to future similar requests, let the person know that you do not provide your photo or personal information to strangers.

If they need further assistance with the game, point them back to the forum as a way to get the support he needs. If they persist, consider reporting him to the forum moderators.

How to Handle 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! 😉

In my over 28 years of being online, I have learned that you cannot trust or believe folks you do not know — no matter how nice or sincere they may seem. So never give 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 delete any future emails and make your parents, the moderators, and the ISP aware of the situation.

Get the word out...