social mediaPotential harm from a seemingly innocent social media connect is just a few step away. Here are the steps predators use to groom victims.

  1. Silent Stalk – Social media is the perfect environment for predators to sift through potential targets. The more difficult prey place security restrictions on who can view their posts, are careful not to over expose, and don’t accept request from strangers. Potential victims do the opposite. This allows the predator to examine past posts to discover information about the person. Specifically, they are looking for the disenfranchised, discouraged, lonely, vulnerable, transparent, and naïve.
  2. Profile Creation – Predators can have multiple types of profiles already created to entice a victim. They will have different genders, religions, age ranges, profile pictures, and types of posts. Each profile is designed to lure in a specific type of person.
  3. Make a Request – It is not uncommon for a predator to use their artificial relationship with the victim’s friends as a means to begin a connection. This easy common connection looks innocent and gives the victim a false sense of security.
  4. Small Comments – It begins with small connections such as liking a photo, making a cute comment, or using emoticons. This further softens the victim into a false comfort. When the victim responds to a comment, the predator begins the pursuit.
  5. Initiate Private Conversation – As quickly as possible, the predator will gently suggest they move communication to a more private version of the social media site. Or they may ask the person to join another site. This shift is done to prevent anyone who might be suspicious about the relationship from discovering it. Usually, they like to have the victim on more than one social media site and have access to their phone number.
  6. Ask Questions – The predator will ask more questions than they provide answers. Frequently an asked question will be responded with another question. This is a diversion tactic and is designed to keep the information flowing one-way: from the victim to the predator.
  7. One Word Answers – If pressed for an answer, the predator will respond with one or two words only. When confronted there will be some plausible excuse as to why they can’t talk any further at the moment. This is a distraction tactic done to keep the victim from discovering their potential harm.
  8. Gain Sympathy – When they do return to the conversation, the predator is likely to have some sob story to entice sympathy from the victim. However convincing the predator might be, the story is frequently fake or may only be partially true. It is the predator’s desire to get an emotional reaction out of the victim as a means of testing their future responses. The more understanding and kind the victim is, the more likely the predator is to continue the pursuit.
  9. Constant Contact – The predator will lie to the victim about how meaningful the sympathy was and suggest they talk more frequently saying “I need you” in a variety of ways. The victim, who is not getting this from current relationships, loves to hear how they are needed. The predator initiates contact when the victim is likely to be alone or late at night. By now, they have learned the victim’s routine.
  10. More Personal – The comments from the victim become more and more personal despite the predators lack of reciprocal exposure. Next, the predator encourages the victim to share their deepest secrets offering to treasure it. The predator will also share a made-up secret to gain further confidence of victim. But the ratio of victim’s secrets to predator’s secrets is about 10:1.
  11. More Religious – The predator uses religious conversation in one of two ways. Either they stand in agreement about the victim’s religious convictions or they will be opposite from them. In the first case, the predator offers to “mentor” the victim and help them to grow stronger in their faith. In the second case, the predator offers an opposing viewpoint as a way of enticing the victim to try to change the predator. This is not likely to happen, rather the victim will find that it is them who winds up changing.
  12. Sends Gifts – Who doesn’t like a gift for no reason at all? The predator sends a simple gift to discover more information about the victim. First, they learn their physical address as the victim receives the gift. Second, they discover who notices the gift. Is there a parent, friend, or sibling of the victim who makes a questionable comment? Last, they discover the resolve of the victim to remain in contact despite any negative comments.
  13. Drama Creation – The predator will create some unnecessary drama to push away the victim at first. This is a test to see how hard the victim wants to maintain contact. The victim then apologizes for behavior they have not done so that the predator will contact them again. Often the victim even begs for the predator to return. This is push-pull tactic and is designed to gain control over the victim.
  14. Power Shift – Now the predator has realized and tested their influence over the victim. They might do the drama game several times to lure the victim in even tighter. This is frequently combined with greater secrecy requirement and further testing of the victim’s boundaries.
  15. Initiate Contact – Fully invested in the relationship, the victim is now ripe for contact. The predator initiates face-to-face contact with the victim but doesn’t show up. This is done to see if the victim will tell someone or if they are followed. Frequently the predator is close by but does not reveal themselves.
  16. Real Contact – After apologizing for some false misunderstanding, the predator will try again to initiate contact. This is when the trap is laid and set. The victim not realizing what they are walking into will be so surprised by the harshness of the predator that they will be stunned into inaction. The victim may be are abducted, raped, beaten, tortured, or murdered. Because the predator has been so good at keeping the relationship a secret, it will be difficult to discover who they are. The victim’s family is devastated, not knowing that it all began with a social media contact.

Christine Hammond is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks.