Social Media, Trolls and Your Missing

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Unfortunately, families of missing may endure rumors, malicious havoc and even cyber harassment. This is very common when blogs and forums exist in which members of the general public will gather and discuss cases. Most “bloggers” are not privy to information regarding “actual case specifics” and will draw upon their own conclusions and many times are wrong. This creates rumors and gossip which adds to undue stress for the family trying to find their missing loved one. With that said, Social Media is a great source to utilize to help find your missing…however, it can also cause pain to families of missing should they not be aware of situations that can arise and what to do to help prevent them. This page was designed to help families understand what they can do to avoid such situations.

 

      TIPS TO AVOID CONFLICT

 

  • Hard as it may be, do not read the online comments. Have a friend or distant family member screen for you.
  • Report any comments to law enforcement that may appear to be a tip or lead.
  • Do not engage with strangers ,in private conversations, who contact you online.  Even if it appears they have good intentions. If intentions are good they should have no problem asking a question publicly.
  • If you have a social media site for your missing loved one, do not feel guilt when you may need to ban a poster who is not showing you or your family respect. You’re enduring pain right now and do not need the drama.
  • Do not allow “strangers” to manage sites for your missing loved one. We’ve seen terrible outcomes when this has happened. Report the site to the host provider to have removed and many times you may need to involve law enforcement and/or your attorney.
  • Create your site for your missing loved one, or have your nonprofit agency do one on your behalf, and be sure to title it “Official family site for missing Jane Doe.”  This differentiates your site from those created by unknowns.
  • Do not hold conversations on the telephone with those that you do not know outside of law enforcement and your nonprofit agency.
  • Do not accept phone calls from psychics, mediums  or those who claim to be private investigators.
  • Do not allow anyone outside of the family to hold donation funds for your family and always have at least three family members, and known friends (if not enough family members) named on the donation account.
  • Do not follow guidance of those online who “claim” to have knowledge of what “should be done.” While they may have good intentions it may not be the best for your case.
  • If something doesn’t “feel right” from guidance of your law enforcement agency, or nonprofit agency, ASK questions so that you have a clear understanding as to why guidance is being provided as such. Remember, no two cases are identical and your missing loved one may have a special way that law enforcement wishes to conduct the investigation.
  • Keep communication going between yourself, detectives and your nonprofit agency.
  • Do not divulge case details or information provided to you by law enforcement!!! This is very important. If you are fully confident with the official agency assisting, you may consider having discussions where it pertains to what can be done to help locate your missing loved one. Not all information that police may provide to you should be spoken to others, and this includes friends and distant family members.
  • Do not allow any agency, that is not assigned by law enforcement, to accept tips or leads. Ever. We at LostNMissing INc. are of the firm belief that law enforcement should be the only ones to accept tips and leads. They have the capabilities to record calls , trace calls and/or emails. They are the ones that know court evidentiary processes and will be the ones to appear should a case become criminal. You risk problems with potential evidence should you give the right to others to obtain tips and leads. If in question, ask your detective with the police department if an outside agency may assist with obtaining tips/leads. (Most police agencies will honor Crime Stoppers so you may even request that law enforcement contact Crime Stoppers to add your missing loved one to their case file as they provide Anonymous Tip Lines and even start a small reward fund.

Should you endure harassment, always remember:

Thank those who are considerate of your emotions and feelings.
Avoid those who gossip with malicious intent.
Admire those who listen with an open mind.Pay no mind to those who find humor in belittling others.
Hug and love those who are there for you…
through good and bad times.Forget those who do not know, and think they do.
Cherish those at your side, in your time of need.

Heed those who whisper in your ear…
probability exists, they’re whispering in others.
Overlook when others mock you, for they lack integrity.
Respect those who have a differing opinion…
who show respect for yours.
Disregard those who tell lies about you, as they have no dignity.
Pray for those who judge with ridicule…
as they do not know God in their hearts.
Ignore those who show hate and do not even know you.
Find strength through God, your family and friends…
      for they know the real you.
                      written by, Cynthia Caron

                      President-Founder, LostNMissing Inc

 

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Maliciously Creating Havoc

By Cynthia Caron

 

Internet trolls, cyber bullies, flamers.  We have all heard of them and most of us have experienced the havoc they create online in forums and blogs.  What makes them tick? How does one protect themselves from internet trolls? They all crave attention, so to be rid of a troll one has to simply ignore them.

Hard as it may, that is the only way to beat a troll.  Many forums have features in which you can block them from following you.  Trolls are very manipulative and crafty.  Most possess a low self esteem and find extreme satisfaction in creating disruptions to civilized groups of folks.  They strive to destroy what others are enjoying.   Many times they will start off as a “regular” poster and befriend all they can.  They will soon begin to start talking behind backs of other members and then move forward with false accusations of one member against another.

Ironically, those that are the most common trolls are adults.  After creating negative atmospheres, they will sit back and enjoy the ruckus that they’ve created.  It’s very common to note that trolls will also create multiple screen names and correspond with themselves as the “good person” vs. “the bad troll.”  This is done to manipulate others to befriend the “good person” who is calling out the troll’s behavior and in turn enables the troll to have someone to argue with when others have begun to ignore him or her.  This is in nearly all forums and invariably someone innocent will befriend the “good person” and then they will become the target of the “bad troll.”  It’s their method to spin a web and drag good people into their web of deceit and destruction.  Many forums have completely shut down due to numerous members who feel threatened by troll behaviors and leave the forum.

The absolute best way to avoid this situation is to truly ignore the trolls.  Do not call out their bad behavior.  Stay away from private message conversations in which one wants to discuss other member’s personalities.  Should you become the target of a troll completely ignore them and do not respond to their postings.

Many will research the internet to find out as much personal information about you as possible, such as how many children you have or even your home address, and will use that in a post to drag you into responding hoping to entice an argument.  I’ve seen trolls who have impersonated other forum members by creating names in other forums to damage the reputation of the original person that they targeted.  If you encounter a troll, put them on ignore, do not respond and report them to forum moderators.

Many forums have ways to boot those that cause disruptions, unfortunately, many may find their way to trolling back to a forum. They are certainly unwelcome, yet an unavoidable aspect which occurs online.  Surprisingly, it’s also not always considered a criminal act. They will hide behind the 1st Amendment which prevents law enforcement from being able to take action, unless a minor child is the target or a person has been threatened with actual bodily harm.

However,  what do you do when one reaches beyond the computer and creates malicious havoc in your personal life? You can’t simply ignore them when they invade your home telephone or postal mailbox.  Those who have been the targets of such malevolent evil behaviors are usually families that are already stressed by grief or of a traumatic experience and the most cruel of people will actually target those who are in vulnerable states of mind.

From those who have lost children in car accidents to parents and loved ones of those killed at war are targets of devious people who, like trolls, obtain satisfaction and delight in just knowing they’ve done an awful act to another, even when they are not present to see the damage they’ve created to another person’s spirit.  They are actually cowards, many have very few people in their lives and obviously have no constructive outlets.  Many get away with it as they are difficult to identify. It’s very sad, but true. Those that do these venomous acts merely do it for the thrill of causing disruption and sadness to other human beings.  Somewhere in their lives they skipped the “do unto others” lesson.

One of the very first conversations I have with a family member of a missing loved one is to tell them to absolutely, positively do not put their personal phone number, email address or cell phone as a point of contact on a missing person’s poster.  While those who are seeking missing loved ones want to be able to be accessible, with every means possible, it will cause unnecessary stress as nearly every case I’ve handled in which a private contact was posted the family would invariably receive awful calls.  People will phone and say their loved one is deceased, or will tell the family their loved one is fine and with them and that they left purposely because “you treated them rotten.” These are very mild examples compared to what I’ve heard families have experienced.

Recently, the Phoenix Police Department’s Silent Witness program has offered a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the identification of a person who is mailing letters to homes in Arizona of young girls. Some as young as 8 years old. The alarming letters address the children by name and includes sexual connotations and vulgarity. Due to the nature of the letters, and the ages of the children addressed, criminal charges will be filed. First, however, he or she must be identified.  Thus far detectives have not been able to identify  the writer through collected DNA with registered sex offenders, unidentified sex offenders or inmates.  The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information may contact Phoenix police at 602-262-7626 or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.

 

Should you become a victim of a malicious anonymous person, there are actions that you can take depending on the severity of their acts. 

 

  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has an excellent program to report victims of child sexual exploitation. Simply go to http://www.missingkids.com  MySpace works very closely with NCMEC and they now have a special link to automatically report a site to the NCMEC if the user is exploiting children or is suspicious in nature as a site to entice children into pornography.

 

  • Most police stations, even in small towns, now have Cyber Units that you can file reports if you’ve been threatened, stalked or harassed in a serious nature.  They will not accept cases of vulgar language or insinuating threats because they would be overwhelmed.  However, any bodily threat, stalking or continued harassment should be reported.

 

  • The Internet Crime Complaint Center was established between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.  Their link is: http://www.ic3.gov  *Since its inception, the IC3 has received complaints crossing the spectrum of cyber crime matters, to include online fraud in its many forms including Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) matters, Computer Intrusions (hacking), Economic Espionage (Theft of Trade Secrets), Online Extortion, International Money Laundering, Identity Theft, and a growing list of Internet facilitated crimes. (*taken from the ic3.gov site)

 

 

  • Always keep copies of any threats, stalking or negative emails that you may be receiving.  Document by screen saving public postings that are threatening.  Depress your CTRL key + Print Screen key, simultaneously, to copy screen.  Open word doc file, or email body and depress the CTRL+ V key simultaneously to paste.  Email to yourself and save it in a folder, or save the document file to your computer.

 

We hope the above tips will help keep you and your family free from those “online trolls” who may cause your family unnecessary stress and pain.

 

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