Tangled in the Net: Practicing online safety

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) -- It's a tool most of us just can't live without.

But be warned.  The internet has a dark side.

Case in point:  a murder and armed robbery in New England.  Authorities say the man allegedly behind the crimes singled out his victims on Craigslist, a classifieds website.

State investigators find predators in cyberspace all too often as they hunt for a victim.

Unfortunately, that hunt is easier than you'd think.

"People make their life an open book, so these guys who are looking for victims can get all the information they need in one fell swoop," explained Kelly Hawkins, Director of the Family Protection Unit at the State Attorney General's office.

Predators can surf your profiles for information like your phone number and address.

"Say you have a picture of you, and the window's open. You can see a street sign, and it gives them all of the information they need," Hawkins said.

Teens and young adults frequent the sites, but some say caution is the name of the game.

"You really just have to look at the ad--at the classified--and say, 'Is this a real classified? Does this make sense to follow through or talk to this person?'" said Kent Hagan, a student at Huntingdon College.

They're all important questions to ask as users walk the line between information and crime.

"As we walk around every single day, we take the precautions of wearing our seatbelts and doing everything we do to keep ourselves safe, but we also have to do that on the internet," Hawkins said.

The Alabama Attorney General's Office has special seminars highlighting the risks of surfing the web.  For more information, give them a call  at (334) 242-7300.