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Hartford public library to host back-to-school social media safety seminar | Washington County News | #schoolsaftey

HARTFORD — The Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Washington County Anti-Trafficking Advocates (WCATA) will be hosting a social media safety seminar for new and returning students at the Jack Russell Memorial Library, 100 Park Ave. in Hartford, next week.

According to the announcement over social media, there will three opportunities to attend over two days: twice on Tuesday and once on Saturday, Aug. 19. The Tuesday seminars will take place from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. The Saturday seminars will take place from 10 a.m to 12 p.m.

The seminars will be taught by WCATA Co-Founder Wendy Smith as well as members of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office who have handled issues related to online suspicious behavior in the past.

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The seminar will touch on topics including:

■ False profiles (do you really know who you’re talking to online?)

■ The dangers of sexting

■ Identifying grooming techniques and things like “sextortion”

■ What to do if something bad has happened (either to you or someone you know)

■ What to do if you witness suspicious online activity

■ Safety features on devices

■ How to have the awkward conversations (for both students and parents) According to Smith, this seminar is primarily about educating the public and making sure they know how to identify the warning signs and potential dangers of suspicious online activities, and what resources they have as well as the actions they can take if anything more serious were to happen.

“We want to jumpstart these conversations so when people have this kind of thing happen to them, they feel comfortable talking about it with their parents, and parents can help their children through what will prove to be a very difficult time,” Smith said.

One of the main reasons for these seminars is highlight certain suspicious activity on social media, the most prevalent being “sextortion.” This is where scammers will pretend to be someone they are not and flirt online with younger or more impressionable community members, then ask to trade explicit media: photos, videos etc. Then, as soon as the victim complies, the scammer blackmails the victim with the media, threatening to leak things if not paid a specific sum of money. According to Smith, this is a growing problem. Another scary thing, according to Smith, is that the situation seems to be evolving. In the past, the targets of these sextortion scams were primarily young women, but now the perpetrators seem to be beginning to target more young men, widening the range of potential victims.

According to Smith, one of the largest problems with these situations is embarrassment, both of the victims and their families.

“What’s happening is, at least what I’ve learned when I’ve talked to parents, is that people aren’t reporting,” said Smith. “Kids don’t tell their parents because it’s embarrassing, and when they do, they ask not to tell anyone because they’re worried about having to talk to the police.”

However, this is the purpose of the seminars. They are a resource to remind citizens that there are ways to protect themselves, and there are support networks available. These seminars will serve the community and help keep people safe from these scammers, as well as other dangers that lurk in our social-media heavy society. Seats for this event are still available to reserve. To register or for more information, call or text (262) 224-0528 or send an email to [email protected].

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National Cyber Security