FORT BELVOIR, Va. (June 21) -- The internet is a useful tool for finding information and enjoying entertainment, but if residents and employees aren't careful the World Wide Web can create a world of trouble financially and mentally.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center's 2011 Internet Crime Report found the center received 314,246 complaints in identify theft, scams, and fraud resulting in $485 million in reported stolen funds.

Thieves and hackers pounce on any information users carelessly leave open to public for these criminals to use for financial gain and other malicious purposes, such as fraud, cyber bullying, identity theft, and terrorism.

In honor of these facts and others, June is recognized as Internet Safety Month to promote awareness to wise decision-making online.

The recognition stems from a congressional resolution in response to rising concerns of internet misuse amongst Americans.

One hot button area of misuse is on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter where adults, teenagers and children convene to share information.

These virtual "hangout spots" are fun and engaging for users, but Directorate of Emergency Services Heidi Flick, Criminal Investigations special agent, said these sites can lead to problems for careless users.

"You have to be very careful about what you're posting, written content and pictures," Flick said.
Flick recommends users, especially children, set privacy settings on social media sites to private and limit their friends and followers lists to close friends and Family members.

This helps prevent unknown people from viewing profiles and starting conversations to gather personal information.

Public pages are also more accessible to employers and college representatives, which means any inappropriate post from a party or a profane laced comment could reflect negatively upon the sender.

Flick said social media users should also refrain from participating in cyber bullying.
DES defines cyber bullying as any type of harassment or unsolicited communication via social media or texting.

Flick and other DES special agents have discussed these topics with teenagers and children on post to educate any potential bully or victim.

Flick's first tip for victims is to ignore a cyber bully's first attempt at harassment.

"A bully loves nothing than for you to feed into it," Flick said. "They're just looking for a reaction most of the time."

Flick said if the treatment continues then the victim should speak with adults for help.
Flick advises any potential bully from harassing classmates as the continued action could become a criminal offense.

"If it gets to where it becomes a criminal offense for a simple harassment or communicating a threat, the juvenile could end up either attending a juvenile review board if they're a military member here on post or it could end up in a Fairfax County juvenile domestic relations court," Flick said.

The Fort Belvoir community can celebrate Internet Safety Month by exercising safe social media habits and refraining from cyber bullying. Community members can also celebrate by participating in the National Cyber Security Alliance's public-service campaign: STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

According to the organization's website, citizens can STOP to understand the risks and learn how the internet presents potential problems and then THINK about potential warning signs and consider how any actions online could impact safety. Citizens can CONNECT to the internet with greater confidence after taken the right cautionary steps.

NCSA created a STOP THINK CONNECT website that offers numerous safety tips for internet users such as creating strong passwords and protecting personal information.

Visit www.stopthinkconnect.org for detailed internet safety tips.

Page last updated Thu June 21st, 2012 at 00:00