Updated on 19.07.2023

When browsing the Internet, you need to be aware of the many dangers, such as misinformation, fraud or other harmful activities.  

As a migrant, refugee, or asylum seeker, you could be especially vulnerable because by being in a new country, you may lack access to institutional resources and may be unfamiliar with legal processes and also because smugglers and traffickers might specifically target you. This is why it is important to stay alert and to know how to identify, avoid and report online threats. This article aims to inform you about existing Internet risks and offer advice on how to stay safe online. 

Common risks are: 

  • Digital harassment 

Digital harassment is when someone uses different social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram. Etc), messaging chats (WhatsApp, Viber etc.), email services, gaming platforms, or phone calls to harm, scare, threaten, or shame you.  

For example, when someone is spreading rumours about you, your life or your close ones online with the purpose of mocking, or humiliating you or by using offensive and discriminatory language related to your race, religion, gender identity, etc. 

  • Doxxing 

Doxxing is when someone shares your personal information online without your consent. An example of doxxing is when someone publishes your phone number online, and you receive threats via text or calls.  

  • Phishing 

Phishing is when someone contacts you via email, message or telephone, pretending to be an official institution, company, or service to convince you to provide them with personal data and information (passwords, bank account and credit card details, etc.).  

Examples of a phishing scam include: 

  • emails saying that there is suspicious activity regarding your bank account or other problem with your account or with your payment information, or they ask you to confirm some personal or financial information; 
  • emails that claim that you have won a cash prize or that you are eligible to register online for a government refund; 
  • phone calls claiming that your family member had an accident and immediately needed a big sum of money and many more. 

In all cases, the goal is to steal your identity and money. 

  • Grooming  

Grooming is when someone online creates an emotional connection with you through social media chats or any other digital means to gain your trust. Once they have your trust, they will use it to manipulate and exploit you.  

Children are the most vulnerable to this crime and are at great risk of being sexually exploited. Examples of grooming are when an online stranger starts texting you, complimenting you, shares secrets with you, moves the conversation to a private chat or a different messaging platform, asks you questions that seem innocent but are designed to gather sensitive data (where do you go, your habits, which school), asks about your sexual experience, asks for explicit images or videos of yourself, asks you not to tell anyone about your relation and conversation. 

  • Hacking 

Hacking is when someone is accessing or controlling your laptop, phone or any other electronic device without your consent. Usually, hackers are hunting for private information to steal, they aim to access to bank accounts of their victims or release malicious software and viruses in your electronic devices. 

  • Sextortion 

Sextortion is when someone threatens you to publish sexual pictures, videos and information about you with the intention to extort something from you, such as money, sexual acts performed through a webcam, etc. It is a form of sexual violence. 

How to protect my safety? 

  • Do not share or send personal information such as your contact number, names, address, identification number (EGN, LNCH), intimate pictures and videos of yourself online – via chats, Facebook pages, TikTok, or any other public platform. Delete any addresses, places of work, and specific locations from your accounts;   

For instance, if you are a member of one of REFUGEELIGHT.BG Facebook groups and you need advice from a specialist at the Foundation for Access to Rights – FAR, do not post a public post and instead send us a private message or contact us via our Request Assistance form in order to protect your personal data. Keep the information you share about yourself online to a minimum.  

  • Immediately stop interactions with suspicious strangers/frauds/harassers.  

Do not reply to and ignore suspicious and unknown texts, or emails. Hung up if it is a phone call.  Block and report unknown and suspicious social media accounts/phone numbers; 

Sometimes the email of the sender is unusual; the information sounds too good to be true (cash prizes, lucrative offers), or very urgent (telling you that your account will be suspended unless you update your personal details immediately). Remember that government institutions, banks and companies will almost never ask you to send personal details in an email or chat.  

  • Do not click on links and do not open attachments sent by people you do not know via email, claiming, for example, that your account is on hold because of a billing problem or that you need to update your personal details.

Always double-check if the email address is valid. Scammers often pretend to be your employers, friends, or bank representatives. Once you open a suspicious attachment, you may install malware on your computer, allowing hackers to access your camera and steal sensitive content. 

Remember that real companies won’t email or text you with a link to update your sensitive information.  If you are worried about anything concerning your account, it would be best to contact the company or institution via the contacts published on their official website. 

  • Regularly monitor the movement of your bank accounts or other viral assets. Take immediate action if you detect an unauthorized transfer by contacting your bank or payment service. 
  • Set up privacy settings.  

Make your social media accounts, photos, videos private so that only people you know and trust can see what you post (e.g. select the option “friends only" for your posts). Hide your WhatsApp groups, turn off “last seen” and do not allow unknown people to add you to groups.  

  • Deactivate geo-location on all your accounts. 
  • When you use public Wi-Fi, deactivate the public network sharing functionality on your phone or PC; 
  • Avoid weak passwords  

Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Choose a password of more than 10 characters. Do not use names, phone numbers, birth dates, repeating or visually identical characters. Do not use the same username and password for multiple different accounts. Do not share your password with anyone. 

  • Use multi-factor authentication for log-in whenever it is possible.  

It is an extra layer of security, such as questions you have to answer, a one-time verification code or a password you can get via email or text, or a fingerprint scan. 

Internet safety concerning your kids: 

  • Keep an eye on the platforms, games and apps they use;  
  • Explain to them that even if they meet friendly people online, their intentions can be malicious;
  • Explain to your children that they need to inform you if anyone threatens them or asks them for sexual acts or sexually explicit images. 
  • Explain to your kids that if they want to meet someone they have befriended online, they should always communicate it to you and never go without a parent present. 

Where and how can I report if something happens? 

In case of digital harassment: 

Collect information that can prove that you have been digitally harassed (screenshots, recording calls, take notes of the time, places and people involved, write down the number(s) through which the harasser contacted you) and report the incident to the General Directorate for Combating Cybercrime of the Ministry of Interior via email: [email protected], or phone - 0885 525 545 (in English or Bulgarian). 

If your kids happen to come across information or other content on the web that is disturbing or scary

You or they can report it to:

  • The free 24-hour National Child Helpline 116 111 of the State Agency for Child Protection. They speak English and Bulgarian.
  • The Centre for Safe Internet via their telephone number 124 123, via the chat module or online form.