Internet ignorance can leave Web surfers in dire straits.
Just ask the many who have gone online and have suffered after their anonymity was compromised and their lives suddenly open to the prying eyes of every wacko with a 56k modem.
This is the situation that has befallen 20-year Carson City resident "Kate."
Kate - her name changed for anonymity - has been looking over her shoulder a lot in the last week. Her first and maybe last experience with the Internet has left her a little bit disenchanted with the promises of a happy world of user-friendly information.
A man who she met through her Internet provider, America Online, has turned out to be much less than she expected. In fact, she suspects he may be a stalker.
That's right. An Internet stalker, right here in River City.
It all started out innocently enough, Kate says. A friend of hers recently gave her a used computer which she used to start an Internet account. Once online she tried the chat rooms, she tried the Web and then, maybe falsely trusting her instincts, she tried posting her name on a singles network.
"The first guy was nice enough, but we didn't click and make that connection," she says.
At this point Kate, 28, says her apprehension started to wear off. Judging from her first date, she was pretty confident that respondents to her personal ad might be weird, nerdy or boring but probably not dangerous.
And then she met Mr. X.
X is also a Carson City man, in his 40s and new to the area. When he responded to Kate's internet posting, she chatted with him online, learned that he just moved to Carson City and decided to take a chance and meet him at a local restaurant.
Anticipating another "blah" encounter, she showed up early at the restaurant to scope him out, only to be met by him at the door.
Feeling sketchy about his early arrival, she said she was someone else and went inside and took a seat close to where he was.
As she watched him, she noticed him getting more and more agitated with her tardiness, so she decided to give up and make an excuse via her computer.
"He just freaked me out a little bit, so I just walked away," she says. "I told him I was just making up with an ex-boyfriend and I needed some time to work it out. And then he showed up at my work."
Kate's mistake was revealing to Mr. X that she works for a local retail outfit.
She hid from him in the back office while he hung around for awhile, feigning interest in the merchandise. Kate says she had to send out a salesman to get him to leave. "That's the fastest way to drive them away," she joked.
Feeling a touch insecure about her two-week experience with the Internet, Kate has changed her phone number and requested that her address remain anonymous.
And she's giving up on computers for a little while. At least until she learns more about the pitfalls in cyberspace.
Featured chats of the week:
-- Tuesday, March 14: Fly fishing with Dave Wolf at chat .yahoo.com
Master fly fisherman, author and photographer talks to his fans about the one that got away at 12 p.m.
-- Tuesday, March 14: Author Helen Fielding at chat.yahoo.com
The online Literary Guild Book Club features Fielding who authored her critically acclaimed "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
-- Wednesday, March 15: MSNBC news anchor Paul Begala at msnbc.com/chat
Begala talks about the news of the day at 7:30 p.m.
-- Wednesday, March 15: The Foo Fighters at sonicnet.com
Their album, "There is Nothing Left to Lose" has hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. They discuss their music from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
-- Wednesday, March 15: Screenwriter Allen Ball at barnesandnoble.com
He is riding high this year after several Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations. He will discuss his work from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.