The Do’s & Don’ts of Internet Contacts by R. Ann Parris
The internet is an incredible resource for us. It’s also a minefield of dangers. There are some general internet use rules it makes sense to follow anywhere, with anyone. There are also some that apply specifically to us as preppers using meet-up sites like Preppergroups.com and even the associated forum.
– DO exercise caution. The risks are many. Mostly we’re going to be on the lookout for everyday thieves who want our piles of prepper supplies, but there’s also the same scam artists, crazy-heads, and child snatchers we find in any society or subculture.
– Don’t go too overboard with OpSec. Especially when we’re trying to find a potential partner, we have to give some information.
– DO give some thought to information we provide. Our specific situations play a big role in what’s safe and what’s not. It’s easier to identify somebody who’s given us a tiny town of 2K or fewer to start with than somebody who only gave us a much more populated city or county. That info can be gleaned from things we say about our property, kids, and workplace.
– DON’T give your keys and address to a stranger on the street. The same applies to people we “know” from the internet. There are steps and stages somebody should progress through before we give them information that will put them right on our doorstep.
– DON’T post you phone number or heaven forbid, your address. There are ways to get around the phone, but unless those measures have been taken, it’s too easy to get a great deal of information about somebody with a simple internet search. For $5-25 we can get a lot more information using only a phone number. This is not only an invitation for media, bots mining for numbers to robo-call (and sell to other marketing groups), and random crazies, it’s making life a lot easier on thieves.
Especially for those of us trying to make contacts we hope to eventually meet, learn from or form a group with, there are some specific steps that can help us communicate easily and with confidence.
– Get a “dummy” or “drop” email. Ideally, it’s one of the many freebie services available. If we want, sure, go ahead, get one of the ones that protects you further, but it’s not necessary. All we’re looking for from this email is the ability to not have our prepper contacts using our primary home and work emails.
One, it adds a layer of security.
Two, if it gets out and we start getting spam or we get ourselves a crazy who keeps changing emails to continue contacting us, all we do is go through, see who we want to keep, send them an email with the next freebie email address CC’d or inside, and close the original account.
– Exercise smarts with the email address. We don’t want to hand somebody our name, or name and occupation if at some point we’re going to give them our town or neighboring town to start asking about. Instead, go with something that reflects interests or purpose like “[email protected]”, “[email protected]…”, or “[email protected]…”.
– Get “cute” with registration information. Instead of using our actual name to register for our email, Skype, Facebook, etc. (and phones in some cases), use an initial or two, split one of your names, or grab an interest to sub in like “Per Maculture”, “B Redi” and “Imthe Rescue”.
– Get a “drop” phone. We want a cheap flip phone we pay to put minutes on, one without any GPS data if possible. We don’t want a contract or anything that will associate that phone with us and the places we go.
– Remember, the tactical ninja could be a 300# couch amoeba. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. I could be anybody sitting on the other side of that screen. Your friendly mods and admins here and at most places that run a free, helpful service do their best to weed out the crazies, but some slip through. (Please let us know if you find one.)
– Don’t be bullied. If you don’t want to keep talking to the person, tell them it’s not going to work out. In about those six words. That’s all you need. “Hey, I appreciate the contact, but I just don’t think this is a good fit” if you’re aiming to be polite (and we should).
– Meet CAREFULLY. You do not know this person, and you won’t after 1-2 or even 10-15 meetings. Initially and until you would be comfortable sending a 6 y/o and 16 y/o daughter and 76 y/o mother out with them, pick your place.
– Push packing rules. Tell the other person to make sure somebody knows where they’re going to be meeting, and about what time they plan to leave again and when they should arrive home. Just throw it in there while making arrangements. “You know, packing rules, in case you have an accident or something.”
And, the most important part, “I do it anytime I’m bopping around, with or without the HAM radio or packing GPS.”
You have just told the person you’re meeting that somebody knows where you are and when you should be back. By doing so, it’s also a clue to the person you’re meeting that you might not be an easy target, just in case that person is one of the rare crazies.
(Those crazies are on every single website everywhere, please be careful with any meeting.)
– Location, location, location. Ideally, we’re somewhere we can find a public area that is visible from a distance, but that will offer some privacy for conversation.
From personal experience: Do not trust that somebody you are meeting at a restaurant or Cabella’s is going to be savvy to risks, or that the spouse/kids/preexisting partner shares the same level of discretion as the one you first met.
If you don’t want other diners and waitresses to know you’re a prepper, go to a park. And not a dog park where they will blab walking through the cluster of owners at the gate.
– Scrub/Sanitize gear and vehicles. No kids’ school logos on cars or coats, no band/sports uniform that tells them I have an ankle biter who will be at a specific location specific days and times (like M-F, 7:30-3:30, or the internet schedule for when they play). Nothing sitting out that can be photographed or pocketed and give them our full name or address, like mail, work badges/passes, or insurance cards.
– Listen to your gut. If something feels off, step back. You can even be honest. “Hey, thinking this through, I feel like this isn’t a good time to meet,” or, “…I think I want to pass on [whatever].”
– Weigh their feedback. Sometimes the feedback we’re going to get is warm and fuzzy. Sometimes it’s reasonable. Sometimes we’re going to brush it off, not respond to them, but their feedback is going to affect whether we continue meeting them or not.
We don’t have to be super crazy when it comes to meeting people we contacted through the internet, but there are some steps to take.
Most are the same steps promoted by every tech journal and parenting magazine. We have some additional considerations to deal with, since eventually we have high hopes of calling and-or meeting this person we’re opening communication with. They, too, are mostly common sense for dealing with strangers.