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Protecting Yourself
Legal Guidelines
Computer, Email and Cell Phone Safety

Computer, Email and Cell Phone Safety
There are a number of safety and privacy issues that can be impacted by technology. Here are just a few safety considerations to keep in mind when using a computer, email, or a cell phone:
  1. If you are in danger, use a safe computer that your abuser cannot access (a public library or school, the home of a trusted friend).

  2. There are many ways all your activities on the computer including browsing the Internet are recorded.

  3. Email and Instant/Text Messaging (IM) are not a safe or private way to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life.

  4. Traditional “corded” phones are more private than cell phones or cordless phones.

  5. You may not be able to reach 9-1-1 using an Internet phone or Internet-based phone service. You may need to be prepared to use another phone to call 9-1-1.

Computer and Internet Safety
Computers have the ability to store a lot of private information about what sites you visit on the Internet, the emails and instant messages you send, internet-based phone and IP-TTY calls you make, web-based purchases and banking, and many other activities. If you must use a computer your abuser can access, you can attempt to cover your tracks by doing the following:

Note: It is not possible to completely delete or clear all the “footprints" from your computer or online activity. Clearing your browser history will make it more difficult, but NOT impossible for someone to trace your computer use. If you are being monitored, it may be dangerous to change your computer behavior by suddenly deleting your entire Internet history if you have never done so before. The safest way to find information on the Internet is to use a safe computer that your abuser cannot access.
  1. Use an email account your abuser cannot access. If an abuser has access to your email account, he or she may be able to read your incoming and outgoing mail. If you believe your account is secure, make sure you select a password they will not be able to guess.

  2. Do not store passwords and change your password or passwords often. Do not use obvious passwords, such as your birthday or your pet’s name. Use passwords that include both letters and numbers.

  3. Delete emails and files/documents. Delete emails from the “Send” or “Outbox” and then also delete emails from the “Deleted Items” box. In addition, empty the “Recycle” or “Trash Bin” of any documents before shutting down the computer. Make this a regular routine so it is not an unusual action that triggers suspicion.

  4. Clear cookies, temporary web site files and browser history. Cookies are information that a web site leaves on your hard drive about your visit to that web site. A temporary web site file is left on your computer each time you visit a web site. One of its pages, usually the home page, is stored “temporarily” on your hard drive. Usually Internet browser software retains a list, or History, of all the web sites you visit. Refer to your software “Help” menu or technical support for further information.

  5. Clear the search engine. Many search engines retain and display past searches. Check whichever search engine you use for information on how to turn this feature off.

  6. If you add a site to your “Favorites” (also known as bookmarking) other people who use your computer can use your Favorites to see what web sites you have visited.

Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence

Protect Your Email Privacy
Taking steps to maintain your personal safety when using email and other electronic communications is important. Your abuser could have access to your email account if:
  1. You share an email account. Whenever you share the same email account your partner will be able to read any of the emails in the account.

  2. You use Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, or a similar program to check your email. These programs allow anybody who has access to your computer to read your email.

  3. You check your email on the Internet. Your abuser may have access to your email account if they know your email address and password. Also, some people have their computers set up to save their email address and password for them. If your computer has your email address and password saved, anyone with access to your computer can read your email.

  4. You share your password with them.

  5. You say “yes” when your browser asks you if you’d like to save your password. Although it’s convenient, it’s not a good idea—especially when the computer you are using is shared.

  6. You write your password down. If you absolutely must write down a new password the first time or two you use it, be sure you keep it in a very safe, hidden place—not a sticky note stuck to your computer or your desk! Once you’ve memorized it, shred it—don’t just toss it in the trash.

Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence

Cell Phone Safety
If you use a cell phone, be aware there are numerous ways an abuser can use cell phone technology to overhear your calls or locate you. Use a cell phone only if you do not have access to a regular phone, and make sure that you do not give any identifying details on a cell phone. If your abuser works for a phone company or law enforcement agency, use extreme caution, and discuss cell phone safety with a domestic violence advocate.

A cellular phone in "silent mode" or "auto answer" can serve as a tracking device. Some recent models of cell phones have GPS (Global Positioning System), which is a location-finding feature. You can check with your phone company to learn if your cell phone has this feature. If you are fleeing from your abuser, either turn off your cell phone or leave it behind.

Wireless carriers are required to complete 9-1-1 calls, even when a phone is not activated. Any phone that turns on and receives a signal is capable of making 9-1-1 calls. It is important to know that if the phone you're using isn't activated, i.e., there isn't a phone number assigned to it, and you're disconnected from the 9-1-1 dispatch center, you must call 9-1-1 back.

Contact LifeWire at 425-746-1940 to learn about cell phone donation programs for emergency services.

Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence

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