Editorial: It can happen here too

June 13, 2014 

Monday’s news about an Internet relationship that resulted in human trafficking charges in Zebulon is the stuff of tabloid fodder.

We’ve heard many people in recent days express surprise that, in Zebulon, a man would instigate an online affair, lure a woman from Europe and then hold her captive upon her arrival.

While Robert Whiteside’s guilt or innocence is still to be proven, the case reminds us that Internet crimes can begin right here in eastern Wake County. The Internet is in place here. There are no roadblocks that keep people in small towns from accessing people in the world’s largest, most remote cities anywhere in the world.

It’s also worth noting that, for all the advances of technology and all the ease of access to information (remember the telephone book?) we must be careful who we deal with online.

It’s virtually impossible to know what someone’s motivations are when you can’t see them, or hear them, or judge their surroundings.

A so we encourage everyone to approach Internet relationships cautiously. Even among friends the written word, or an embarrassing photograph can cause hurt or, in some cases, harm.

For many years, warnings like this have been dedicated to children and their use of the Internet. Not as worldly and wise as their adult role models, children can be particularly susceptible to a corrupt person on the other end of an Internet hookup.

This week’s Zebulon incident reminds us that children aren’t necessarily the only victims of Internet crimes. Adults, too, can be taken by surprise if they don’t exercise due caution.

So be careful what you put online. Consider the sites you visit and whether you would want to be seen actively involved in those sites. If the answer is no, then it’s a pretty safe bet you shouldn’t be there.

Renew your commitment regarding the sharing of private personal information about yourself.

The more you can limit your exposure to some would-be crook, the less likely you are to fall prey to some stranger on the Internet who’s offering something that’s too good to be true.

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