Tips for staying safe online
Things you need to know
We could be here all day telling you about the complex nature of online safety and details about why and where these dangers exist, but these are the essentials you need to know. For these top tips, we took advice from the respondents of our research survey and also spoke to Taylor, the Digital Engagement Development Worker from MASH for some expert advice on how sex workers can stay safe online.
Trust your gut and watch out for red flags.
- Something looks too good to be true? It probably is. Lots of scams happen online. Being overcautious and asking questions is never a bad thing.
- Are they who they say they are? It's very easy to pretend to be someone you're not online, in some cases, it doesn't really matter but if they are promising you something significant, check them out first. National Ugly Mugs have a username checker which is a great place to start.
- Read what you're signing up for, always read the small print and know exactly what you are signing your name to.
Use a persona/work name for everything – never tell a client your real name. Use image blurring tools to blur out your face, visible tattoos or birthmarks. Avoid giving clients your address unless absolutely necessary; if you want to receive gifts or money, consider setting up a POBox; you can rent these for a small fee every month and clients cannot find your real name or address that is associated with it.
If possible, have a separate device for work, ideally both a phone and laptop that are password protected. Your work phone doesn’t have to be fancy; a simple and cheap smartphone will do just fine. Use a pay as you go SIM card and register it to your work name and email, rather than your legal name.
Have different passwords for your work devices than your personal devices – this means that if somebody in your everyday life knows your password, they cannot access your work device. You can use password management apps to keep track of your passwords safely (don’t just save them on your phone).
If you only have one device, use ‘Incognito’ on Chrome to browse the internet when accessing work related websites. If you are extra concerned about security, use encrypted apps such as Whatsapp or Signal to communicate with clients where you can. This is to protect you from spyware, IP/location tracing or hacking.
Never login to your personal Instagram or Facebook using the same phone that you use for work social media; the software that Facebook and Instagram use may suggest your work profiles to your personal friends and family. If you can, use a photo on your personal social media that doesn’t show your face. Keep all personal social media on private.
Use unique photos in your adverts and work social media; all it takes is a reverse image search of the photo to bring up your personal social media accounts. You can also use this function yourself to check if any of your content has been stolen and/or uploaded on the internet.
Set up a business bank account to take payments if you can; this is really easy to do and you can register the bank account as a trading name. Make this trading name non-descriptive eg SWLimited. You can also take anonymous payments through Amazon gift cards to avoid providing your full name.
Watermark all content that you post online. Some websites (e.g Only Fans) do this for you, but you can also find free apps that you can use to do this. If your online content gets uploaded online, consider using the DMCA takedown service. Additionally, you can place a DMCA icon on your page for free, which may discourage clients from downloading and sharing your content, knowing that you will not tolerate theft of your content.
Reach out for help if you need it. Intimate image abuse is something online sex workers face every day and it is illegal – no matter what you do for work, you reserve the right to not have your content stolen or shared.