The following are tips to help you stay safe while online. If you feel that your trafficker is tracking your web browsing or email activity or if you feel unsafe online, please consider how to plan for your safety. If you would like more online safety tips or to receive help creating a safety plan, call the toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888. The hotline is confidential and available 24/7.
Below are some options for you to consider. Planning and testing out these options ahead of time can help keep you safe. This list is not exhaustive.
Use Public Computers
Public Computers at local public libraries or community centers are more difficult to trace. Consider using these to access help whenever possible.
Delete Search History
Search engines track your online searches and this information can be accessed by others using the same computer. If you are concerned that your trafficker will see what you have been searching for online, is important to clear your search history after each session. Here are instructions at Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Delete Browser History
Your browser saves a list of all the websites you have visited while on the internet, and should be cleared after every session, especially if you’ve visited sites you wish to keep private from your trafficker. Learn how to delete your search history on Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Toolbar.
If the "Use Inline AutoComplete" box in your Internet settings is checked, partial web addresses will be completed while typing in the Address bar and could reveal where you have been browsing. To make sure AutoComplete is not enabled, pull down the Tools menu, choose Internet Options, then click the Advanced tab. There is a box that can be checked or unchecked called "Use Inline AutoComplete." Uncheck the box if it is checked.
Disable Chat Logs
If you are using a chat feature, check to see if your program has a Disable/Enable log setting that you can disable while you are chatting. Once you are done chatting, you can restore the settings.
When posting on social networking sites, double check privacy settings and remove any geographical check-in points such as Four Square, or automatic GPS tags on photographs or photograph-based websites. Privacy & Safety on Facebook: A Guide for Survivors of Abuse is an in depth guide on how to best manage your privacy on Facebook. Learn more about safety and privacy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
When posting on social networking sites, be cautious not to provide unnecessary information regarding your daily activities or close friends and family.
Block Trafficker/Trafficker's Acquaintances
Consider blocking your trafficker, and ”Unfriending”/”Unfollowing” all of your trafficker’s friends or mutual friends you cannot trust. Blocking a user from a social network site, provides extra levels of privacy and security. Always consider that anything shared on a social networking site can eventually find its way to your trafficker and/or someone that might pass on this information, even innocently.
New Email Account
Choose a gender-neutral, non-specific username that is not similar to one you have used before, not yourname@. Don’t reference favorite hobbies or birthdates in your username, or anything that might alert your trafficker to your identity.
Online Address Book
If you use the address book associated with your email program, do not enter sensitive information into the address book. If your email program automatically enters email addresses into the address book of people you’ve replied to, you may be able to disable that feature. You may also be able to disable the automatic name completion feature, which fills in an email address after the first few letters are typed.
You can prevent items from being saved in your Sent folder by disabling that feature in your email. You can either set your deleted items folder to be cleared daily, or simply empty it at the end of each email session.
You can block incoming emails through your email program. You can select to block specific email addresses, or addresses ending in the same address (e.g. email@example.com or any email that ends in address.com.) You can also choose to have designated senders' emails sent to a specific folder. This will allow you the ability to read the emails at a time that is convenient for you, and also allows you to have a copy of the email should there be threats, etc.
Change passwords and PINs frequently, and never give your passwords/PINs to anyone. Choose passwords that are difficult to guess and include letters and numbers. If you need to write it down, write down a hint rather than the actual password. Do not allow the computer to remember passwords for you.
Do a search on Google, Bing, and Yahoo for your full name and city or state to screen all publicly available information that someone can find about you on the Internet. Also, be cautious about having photos of you or your children displayed online.
Personal Harassment (Authorities)
If you are being harassed online, there are several steps you can take to end the harassment. The first thing to do is save copies of everything. If you have a protection order that stipulates no contact, email/contact in a chat room is a violation, and you can report that to the local authorities.
Personal Harassment (Internet Service Providers)
You can also contact the internet service provider (ISP) and email the service of the person that is harassing you. For example, if you are receiving harassing emails from a hotmail account (address ending in @hotmail.com), you can contact hotmail through their website to report the harassment. If a website has been created about you, you can contact the host of the site. This can usually be done by selecting the Contact Us option on the website.
For additional online safety tips and links to excellent safety resources, visit Domesticshelters.org for tips on Safe Surfing or the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) for information on Technology Safety.