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Old 06-05-03, 09:06 AM   #1 (permalink)
beth wallbank
beth wallbank's Avatar
Join Date: Mar-2002
Location: in the mountains
Age: 45
Posts: 1,186
safety in numbers


Shannon could hear the footsteps behind her as she walked toward home. The
thought of being followed made her heart beat faster. "You're being silly,"
she told herself, "no one is following you."

To be safe, she began to walk faster, but the footsteps kept up with her
pace. She was afraid to look back and she was glad she was almost home.
Shannon said a quick prayer, "God please get me home safe."

She saw the porch light burning and ran the rest of the way to her house.
Once inside, she leaned against the door for a moment, relieved to be in the
safety of her home. She glanced out the window to see if anyone was there.
The sidewalk was empty. After tossing her books on the sofa, she decided to
grab a snack and get on-line.

She logged on under her screen name ByAngel213. She checked her Buddy List
and saw GoTo123 was on. She sent him an instant message: ByAngel213: Hi I'm
glad you are on! I thought someone was following me home today. It was
really weird!

GoTo123: LOL You watch too much TV. Why would someone be following you?
Don't you live in a safe neighborhood?
ByAngel213: Of course I do. LOL I guess it was my imagination cuz' I didn't
see anybody when I looked out.

GoTo123: Unless you gave your name out on-line. You haven't done that have

ByAngel213: Of course not. I'm not stupid you know.
GoTo123: Did you have a softball game after school today?
ByAngel213: Yes and we won!!
GoTo123: That's great! Who did you play?
ByAngel213: We played the Hornets. LOL. Their uniforms are so gross! They
look like bees. LOL
GoTo123: What is your team's name?
ByAngel213: We are the Canton Cats. We have tiger paws on our uniforms. They
are really cool.
GoTo123: Did you pitch?
ByAngel213: No I play second base. I got to go. My homework has to be done
before my parents get home. I don't want them mad at me. Bye!

GoTo123: Catch you later. Bye.
Meanwhile...... GoTo123 went to the member menu and began to search for her
profile. When it came up, he highlighted it and printed it out. He took out
a pen and began to write down what he knew about Angel so far.

Her name: Shannon
Birthday: Jan. 3, 1985 , Age:13
State where she lived: North Carolina
Hobbies: softball, chorus, skating and going to the mall.

Besides this information, he knew she lived in Canton because she had just
told him. He knew she stayed by herself until 6:30 p.m. every afternoon
until her parents got home. She played softball on Thursday afternoons on
the school team, and the team was named the Canton Cats. Her favorite number
7 was printed on her jersey. He knew she was in the seventh grade at the
Canton Junior High School. She had told him all this in the conversations
they had on-line. He had enough information to find her now. Shannon didn't
tell her parents about the incident on the way home from theball park that
day. She didn't want them to make a scene and stop her from walking home
from the softball games. Parents were always overreacting and hers were the
worst. It made her wish she was not an only child. Maybe if she had brothers
and sisters, her parents wouldn't be so overprotective.

Next Thursday, Shannon's game was in full swing when suddenly she felt
someone staring at her. It was then that the memory came back. She glanced
up from her second base position to see a man watching her closely. He was
leaning against the fence behind first base and he smiled when she looked at
him. He didn't look scary and she quickly dismissed the fear she had felt.

After the game, he sat on a bleacher while she talked to the coach. She
noticed his smile once again as she walked past him. He nodded and she
smiled back. He noticed her name on the back of her shirt. He knew he had
found her. Quietly, he walked a safe distance behind her. It was only few
blocks to Shannon's home, and once he saw where she lived he quickly
returned to the park to get his car. Now he had to wait. He decided to get a
bite to eat until the time came to go to Shannon's house. He drove to a fast
food restaurant and sat there.

Shannon was in her room later that evening when she heard voices in the
living room. "Shannon, come here," her father called. He sounded upset and
she couldn't imagine why. She went into the room to see the man from the
ballpark sitting on the sofa.

"Sit down," her father began, "this man has just told us a most interesting
story about you." Shannon moved cautiously to a chair across from the man.
How could he tell her parents anything? She had never seen him before today!

"Do you know who I am Shannon?" The man asked.
"No," Shannon answered.
"I am a police officer and your on-line friend, GoTo123."
Shannon was stunned. "That's impossible! Goto123 is a kid my age! He's 14
and he lives in Michigan!"
The man smiled. "I know I told you all that, but it wasn't true. You see,
Shannon, there are people on-line who pretend to be kids; I was one of them.
But while others do it to find kids and hurt them, I belong to a group of
parents who do it to protect kids from predators. I came here to find you to
teach you how dangerous it is to give out too much information to people
on-line. You told me enough about yourself to make it easy for me to find
you. Your name, the school you went to, the name of your ball team and the
position you played . The number and name on your jersey just made finding
you a breeze."

Shannon was stunned. "! You mean you don't live in Michigan?"
He laughed. "No, I live in Raleigh. It made you feel safe to think I was so
far away, didn't it?"
She nodded.
"I had a friend whose daughter was like you. Only she wasn't as lucky. The
guy found her and murdered her while she was home alone. Kids are taught not
to tell anyone when they are alone, yet they do it all the time on-line. The
wrong people trick you into giving out. Before you know it, you have told
them enough for them to find you without even realizing you have done it. I
hope you've learned a lesson from this and won't do it again."

"I won't," Shannon promised solemnly.
"Will you tell others about this so they will be safe too?"
"It's a promise!"
Please send this to as many people as you can to teach them not to give any
information about themselves. This world we live in today is too dangerous
to even give out your age, let alone anything else.
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