AUSTIN, Texas — Social media can be fun and informative.

But it's also a place where online predators look for their next target. 

That's why one group is offering a free course to help community members become more self aware of what they're posting online and how to better identify signs of cyberstalking. 

It will be hosted by the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) Thursday at 8 a.m.

Cyberstalking can come in the form of receiving unwanted or threatening messages or emails, being harassed on social media or someone tracking your location. The course will teach the public how to identify the signs, how to prevent it from happening, and what to do next if it has already happened. 

While the course is being offered to both men and women, the U.S. Office of Women's Health and U.S. Office of Justice Programs have found that one in six women experience stalking. One in four stalking victims report the crime as cyberstalking. 

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"You have to be careful about the realms you go into when you post. People seem to be more free and unfettered when they're online because they're not face-to-face with someone," said Randy Holmes, director of the regional law enforcement academy at CAPCOG. "Lots of times they'll say things they wouldn't say to the person's face. You have to be real careful about what you print online because there's people out there that are predators and they're looking for that easy prey out there. This class will teach people what these predators are looking out for and the ways that they can prevent these instances from happening." 

Looking ahead to next month, CAPCOG will also host two sexual harassment, assault and rape prevention courses on Tuesday, March 19, and Thursday, March 21. The classes are women-only. Attendees will learn confrontation avoidance and counterattacks through this lecture and hands-on training course.

To sign up for any of these courses, click here.


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