Anonymity Breach and my Alias Discovered

Well, it’s finally happened. After more than a year of online privacy (which I treasured sooooo much), my online alias has been discovered and my anonymity breached by someone in my real life.

I’m not freaking out about it, don’t worry. And I won’t go dark and retreat like I did previously. Mostly because, I haven’t really posted anything too controversial that would cause much fallout in my real-life.

The biggest impact to me is the validated lack of trust I have for people in my real life to respect my boundaries. But this is a good reminder for me, so I remember to keep my walls up and guarded.

I know who this person is. It’s someone that’s done this to me before. And it’s someone that used the information they found out about me online to shame me and destroy all my self-confidence. And I had an online support system that I had to let go of too, because this person infiltrated them. It was horrible.

I’m just waiting for them to do the right thing and reveal what they’ve done to me. And until they do so… no trust from me. So far, they’re keeping it a secret. Probably because they’re hoping I’ll reveal something online that they can use against me. But that won’t happen.

Anyhow, let me tell you all how they did it. And I’ll have to add it to my previous post about “Ways an Online Stalker Can Find You”. This is a new way that definitely caught me by surprise! So let me inform you all and you can take any necessary precautions to protect yourselves.

They found me via TikTok. I was very careful to NOT provide TikTok with my phone number or email address when I created an account so nobody in my real life could find me there. BUT…

…there is a Privacy Setting in TikTok called “Users who open or send shared links”. And of course it was defaulted to ON (see screenshot below).

Anonymity Breach
Anonymity Breach

This person sent me a TikTok link via text because they know me in real life so they know how to contact me via phone and email. And I wasn’t being careful enough and I CLICKED on it!

And bam! As soon as I clicked on it, this person received a TikTok message “Pepper Valentine just viewed your shared link!” and DAMMIT! Now they have my online alias to EVERYTHING!

So that’s how my anonymity breach happened and how my online alias was discovered in real life.

The biggest lesson learned here – don’t trust people in your real life to respect your boundaries or your privacy. And also, don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t want to get out in your real life anyway.

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7 Alarming Ways an Online Stalker Can Find You

7 Creepy Ways an Online Stalker Can Find You

I definitely prefer to remain anonymous on my social media. The reason for this is because I’ve had issues with an online stalker before. And my blog and my social media is my escape from my real life where I can be free to be myself or even vent about my real life situations without any consequences. This is the only outlet I have.

For example, if I need to vent about work or my family or my friends or my neighbors, then it wouldn’t work out for me very well if any of them found out about it. I’d end up with some extreme negative fallout to deal with and many broken relationships too.

On the other hand, I’d end up severely censoring myself if I felt that my words could be visible to people in my real life. And if I censored myself here, then it would completely lose its purpose for me.

So anonymity is of paramount importance to me and I posted here about how I came up with my alias: Pepper Valentine. How about you all? Do you care about it as much as I do?

But this isn’t my first attempt at an anonymous online presence. I ended up having to completely shut down my previous attempts and go dark on the internet for a few years to recover after I had an online stalker obsessed with me. It was horrible.

It was a person in my real life that used this information they found against me, and threatened to use it to destroy my job and my relationships. The violation of my privacy was so painful. This was information that I never would have told anyone in my real life. But he found it. And took it. It felt like a theft of my most prized possession – my sense of self worth.

But I learned several lessons from this experience. And now I’m ready to try anonymity online again. But here is a list of the 7 disturbing ways an online stalker can find you…

1) Name Search. So I never used my real name online, but this is the most obvious way to find someone. Once the stalker knows your anonymous name however, you’re basically discovered on all social media platforms.

2) Phone Number / Contacts. Most social media accounts have apps to download on your cell phone. And once you do that, you are exposed to all your contacts. Most social media accounts make it an option to activate this. But don’t trust it. This option may default ON, exposing you immediately. And phone system upgrades may also default this option to ON. So if your stalker ever had your phone number, this is a major risk.

I ended up buying cellular service for my iPad, which comes with its own phone number that I’ve shared with NOBODY. And I only download my Pepper Valentine apps to this iPad. So there is no phone number cross-contamination with contacts to worry about.

7 Disturbing Ways an Online Stalker Can Find You / Image Source: Pepper V.

3) “People You May Know” / “Suggested For You”. This is another option on social media accounts, but don’t trust it either. Because it defaults to ON and may also reset back to ON with any system upgrades. It can use your contacts as well as your Friends list to recommend. The scary thing about this, is that you don’t have to be online friends with your online stalker. BUT if you share any mutual friends online, then this option will expose you!

I’ve completely cut off any potential mutual friends online in order to reduce this risk.

7 Disturbing Ways an Online Stalker Can Find You / Image Source: Pepper V.

4) Close Online Friends. My stalker knew who my closest online friends were. In order to find me, he would stalk their accounts too. He scoured their followings and followers, monitored their likes and comments to find who *seemed* like it could be me, and even befriended them himself under a decoy account to gather intel.

5) Decoy Accounts. Beware the people that engage with you online. You never really know who they are. My stalker would create many decoy accounts to try to access private accounts as well as lure the unsuspecting into giving him information about who they are following. He would maintain online relationships for MONTHS under his decoys to build trust. This is definitely a level of creepy that is unacceptable.

6) Email Address. I finally discovered that my online stalker would use my email address to validate if an account was actually mine or not. He knew my email. So once he suspected an online account might be mine, he would attempt the Password Reset… and, the results of the password reset would give him enough data (the first 2 characters, number of characters, and then the email service) to determine if that account was me or not.

I’ve had to create a new email address specifically for setup only of any Pepper Valentine accounts, and I don’t use it anywhere else (not even for my contact forms or subscription forms) in order to prevent this validation check.

7 Disturbing Ways an Online Stalker Can Find You / Image Source: Pepper V.

7) Hashtags / Tags. If you hashtag something that your online stalker is aware that you are involved in, then he may search the hashtags online and find you that way. For example, if he knows you went to the beach for a week or that you work at Jumping Jack Coffee, then he may stalk those hashtags online and the MINUTE you tag/hashtag that place, then he’s got your post and your profile exposed.

In conclusion, if anonymity online is important to you, please take action to reduce your risks. It’s never guaranteed that you’ll be 100% safe, but you can be safer than normal with some precautions.

So what do you all think about my list above? Do you have any other online stalker methods that I might’ve missed?

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My First Subscriber Spotlight – BosssyBabe

Hi everyone, meet Jen from the BosssyBabe blog!  She’s my very first Subscriber Spotlight so I’m really excited to do this big reveal. 

Jen is a full-time working mom just like me, but alot funnier – no wonder I like her so much. She is from Canada, as an extra bit of info about her. You might’ve already seen her in my comments section on many previous posts, as she’s very active in the blogging world and I love that we’ve connected online.

Jen posts regularly and her content is incredibly relatable, especially regarding parenting and relationships and self-discovery. So I do highly recommend BosssyBabe if you’re interested in entertaining and insightful reading material. You can check out her full blog here

But the purpose of the Subscriber Spotlight is that we focus on one specific thing that Jen would like to promote, which is her latest post about marriage – the good, the bad and the ugly. And we all enjoy some decent drama every now and then, so I know you’re as curious as I am about the “ugly” part. She gets very personal about her 5 year marriage in her latest post named “Adventure of a Lifetime” so if you wanted a crash-course in getting to know someone and their life, this would be the perfect place to start. 

Definitely check out her new post here and drop some love while you’re at it.

P.S. If you are unfamiliar with my Subscriber Spotlight, it is a quarterly drawing of my email subscribers where the lucky winner will get a promotional blast of whatever they want (within reason, of course)BosssyBabe was the lucky winner for Quarter 2.  The next drawing will occur at the beginning of October.  Don’t hesitate to subscribe below to be included in the next drawing!

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I’m Excited to Launch My 1st Subscriber Spotlight

Subscriber Spotlight

So, I’ve never sent out a newsletter before but I just saved my very first draft of my very first one! And I just sent a test one to my email address and I GOT IT!!!! Holy smokes I can’t believe it worked!

Lol, I feel so accomplished that I managed those 2 little things. But we all have to start somewhere right? 🙂

I’ve been thinking that a quarterly newsletter might be the right schedule for me – since I don’t want to bombard everyone with email. And I’ve also been trying to come up with something that would make my newsletter valuable to my subscribers, otherwise, nobody will care and I definitely WANT people to care.

So perhaps my new Subscriber Spotlight would be valuable enough?

This is where I’ll randomly draw ONE of my subscribers immediately prior to sending out this quarterly newsletter. The winner will be announced IN the newsletter. Then this subscriber will have the next 3 months to redeem my promotion of their blog, social media, giveaway, product, etc. They’ll get a dedicated blog post titled the “Subscriber Spotlight” for that quarter, and a shout-out on my social media.

This promotion is subject to my discretion however, just in case it doesn’t align with what I’d like to present to my audience. For example, I would decline promoting something illegal or something that may cause controversy among my audience. I hope that’s agreeable to us all.

Anyhow, I hope all that made sense. I tried to keep it simple.

And I’ll share with you all how I do my drawings. I don’t use a widget or an app. I simply use Excel. If you’re interested in how to use Excel for drawings, I’ve shared the formula in this post here.

I’ll be sending out my newsletter for Quarter 2 of 2021 immediately after this holiday weekend.

Be sure to go ahead and subscribe now so you’re in the drawing for my very first Subscriber Spotlight, where you can promote something important to you! Good luck everyone!

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No spam. Just occasional news, giveaway announcements, and Subscriber Spotlights where you can win a promo. Don’t miss out.

How I Increased my Domain Authority

I sure did. My website’s DA (Domain Authority) just went from 1 to 5 and I couldn’t be more thrilled! Only took 8 months to get there too!

I know, a DA of 5 still basically stinks. But I’ve been getting some more clicks now from Google and I never really have before, so that’s exciting to see!

I created this domain 8 months ago. Around this same time, I started reading about SEO and how important it is. So I found the RankMath plugin and started following it’s guidance on most (not all) of my posts in order to improve my SEO. I still stink at it, but I’m trying.

Also around this time, I started checking my DA and found that it was ALWAYS 1. No matter how many SEO updates I made via RankMath, it never changed from 1. So I was really getting discouraged. I’ve been using this site to check my DA because it’s free and simple to use: https://websiteseochecker.com/domain-age-checker/

(That’s not an affiliate link above. I’m just providing it for your info and convenience.)

I also noticed that I was NEVER getting any clicks from Google. I was getting clicks from other search engines such as Bing and DuckDuckGo but never from Google, so I wondered if something was wrong.

I did some research via Google (oh the irony) and found that Google has a “Sandbox” that it puts new websites in for 6-8 months so they don’t affect any rankings. This is to weed-out spam sites and the people that aren’t serious.

Then last week, I noticing that I was suddenly getting some clicks from Google. I was like, WHAT!!? Lol, only 1 or 2 a day so nothing crazy but still a big change for me since I was accustomed to 0.

So I checked my DA out of curiosity and it had changed to a 5! I was so excited because I had practically given up on Google by this point, as it had taken so long.

I guess I’m now out of the “Sandbox” finally. Lol, now what do I do?

Do you all focus on this stuff like DA and SEO? Any tips on what I should try next? 🙂

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My Site Migration Experience Wasn’t Great

Ok. I think I finally got everything back up and running after attempting my site migration from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. If so, then I’m completely self-hosted! Woo! And I’m NEVER going through that again folks, so this is it.

None of the WordPress migrator plugins worked for me. Because I was originally on WordPress.com Premium, which doesn’t allow plugins. So wherever you read that there is a special migrator plugin that makes moving-over your site super-easy… it doesn’t apply to you unless you are on WordPress.com Business or WordPress.org already. I’m kinda upset they never clarified that. The wording always implied that the plugin works for WordPress. Period.

I feel tricked, bc I didn’t find out about that criteria until AFTER I already paid and started the installation process.

I even contacted SiteGround support about it, and they didn’t help me. They explained that the plugin wouldn’t apply to me and referred me to WordPress support. So now I don’t even believe what they say about excellent customer support either.

Anyhow, so I had to move over everything using the exporter / importer tool, which I actually don’t have any complaints over. THAT was super easy. But I’m still upset that the original path I had intended and planned for was denied to me. AND I’m still upset that I had to figure out my new course of action completely on my own. SiteGround support didn’t help me figure that out.

So after exporting everything, I did have to setup my theme, widgets, menus, categories, etc all over again. None of that stuff got transferred over. Also, none of my followers carried over either. That matter became another engagement with SiteGround support and they again referred me to WordPress. Didn’t help me at all.

I had to spend alot of time Googling that solution on my own, and finally installed the JetPack plugin for it. So far, it seems to have worked, but I’m not 100% sure.

Anyhow, I think I’ve gotten to a stopping point. I’m tired of working on it. Still kinda sour over the whole thing too. But will you all please let me know if something isn’t working for you anymore? I’m still in fix-it mode over this whole thing.

And I’m especially worried about Comments. They weren’t working last night, and I’m not sure if they’re fixed yet. I’m guessing the problem might originate with comments from Reader, but I’m not sure. I’ve reached out to WordPress support about this more than 8 hours ago, and I finally received an email response back from them saying they don’t know what my problem is. So I’m on my own. Again.

I’m not doing anything crazy with my site, so the fact that 3 separate instances of reaching out to support for basic needs have gone unmet, have left a poor impression with me. Because any direction at all from them, would have saved me HOURS of Google research and trial-and-error on my own.

I hope you all have been enjoying a better weekend than I have.

Easily Change Your Blog URL and Domain Name

Change Your Blog URL and Domain Name

I was worried earlier today about how big of a problem it would be to change your blog url and domain name. I wanted all my posts and followers to stay unaffected, but I was scared they would all be wiped out instead.

But it was literally the easiest thing possible.

I am a newbie to Blogging, so I had to Google how to do this.

I found a single menu item in my WordPress.com that did it all. I took a screenshot below of what to do. Just go to “My Site” > “Manage” > “Domains” (Step 1) and you’re on the right page to do it all. If you don’t already have your new url / domain, then select “Add a Domain to this Site” (Step2). And once you have your new url / domain, then select “Change Primary Domain” (Step 3) and you are done with the swap!

How to Change Your Blog URL and Domain Name / Image Source: Pepper V.

And I checked everything out afterwards and I believe it worked! I was still able to access all my followers and they were able to see my next post in their WordPress Reader. Going to my original site now even re-directs to the new site, which is even better than I expected!

So far, I’m happy.

But now I have to change my name on all my social media accounts next. THAT may be where all the hard work comes in. Wish me luck!