The real world and the digital world are increasingly intermeshed, and that means one thing: You can forget about true anonymity online. Sure, you can take steps to preserve your privacy by being cautious about what you tell others about yourself. You can even create a sort of pseudo-anonymity through fake usernames and duplicate accounts. But the only way to truly stay anonymous is to stay offline altogether.

Hardly a news cycle goes by without some mention of another person who thought they were safely hidden behind a fictional identity being found out and subjected to public scorn, private drama and (sometimes) official punishment for their online actions.

The experts who teach about online privacy say that they have one piece of advice for anybody who goes online: If you wouldn’t do something in full view of the public, don’t do it on the internet. There’s an entire industry that has grown up around data brokering, and any link between you and your online identity can be used to find you in real life — even if you try to hide behind complex anonymization proxies and other privacy barriers.

The authorities have grown increasingly sophisticated when it comes to tracking people down whenever they’re suspected of things like using the internet to traffic in or share child pornography or using the internet to sell drugs or commit fraud. Then, they can use all of the unique identifiers that a person leaves behind as they bounce around the internet to build an airtight case against them.

If you’re accused of a digital crime, make sure that you have an experienced defense attorney in your corner.