LOS ANGELES — Webcam models are raking in the riches, live streaming performances for an enthusiastic fan base eager to pay for such a uniquely interactive experience, but that direct connection can expose models to cyber stalkers.
With the advent of lightning-fast Internet speeds, social media networking and affordable cloud hosting, cam models are enjoying a booming Golden Age. Amateurs and professionals alike are taking a crack at the webcam business, especially since their content can't truly be replicated by tube sites. While unauthorized recordings do take place, watching a lifeless video of an older performance will never capture that same improvised magic.
However, as cam models converse with their viewers verbally and via chat windows, they are exposed to potential cyber snooping. Cam model Natalia Grey of MyFreeCams recently spoke to Motherboard magazine about how she stays safe, and she had many helpful tips to share.
For instance, be wary of seemingly innocent questions. If a curious viewer asks a cam model about her favorite craft beer, it can help stalkers narrow their location to a nearby brewery, as can radio commercials from local businesses playing in the background. Even web radios like Pandora may reveal your neighborhood by playing location-based ads, which is why cam models should use alternate zip codes when prompted to input one. So, to prevent observant spectators from zeroing in, performers should be mindful of anything in their workspace that may provide contextual clues.
IP addresses are another potential source of breadcrumbs that a savvy cyber stalker could follow, because they’re tracked by everything from Skype to Amazon wish lists. Dedicated creeps can call or email Amazon to find out where a recent purchase was shipped to, using the cam model's personal information to trick customer service reps into providing a home address.
“Amazon wishlists reveal your town, which is why people use P.O. boxes," NataliaGrey said. "Even if you live in fucking New York City, where no one would be able to find you based on the city name, you should probably still use a P.O. box." She added, “People can simply call Amazon/the shipper and find out the address their purchase was sent to if they pry enough. I don't know what the company policy is for this, but it's happened."
There's no escaping the fact that personal information will end up on the Internet, since apps and online shopping are such a daily part of life. Fortunately, a cam model can set up some roadblocks with three basic defenses. Get a P.O. box, Google Voice, and a VPN. Physical deliveries will be sent somewhere other than an actual place of residence, Google Voice’s fake numbers can be used for any apps or sites that require them and IP addresses can be concealed behind a VPN.
If a model already has a P.O. box, NataliaGrey encourages them to "make sure you don't go to your P.O. box alone, because someone may be waiting for you there, especially if you publicly reveal your P.O. box address and/or say specifically when you'll be going to it."
While it’s unlikely a cyber stalker would actually seek out a cam model to harm her in person, they can still cause mischief from afar with doxxing or swatting. Doxxing is the practice of pulling up a target's personal documents, posting their information on the web publicly and encouraging strangers to cause mayhem for that person. Swatting, named after the police SWAT team, is when pranksters make a false police report about a cam model to trigger an armed response.