Monday, March 17, 2008

Parents get lowdown on Internet predators

By Sharon K. Wolfe

BLOOMINGTON — Being a sexual predator luring children and teenagers has never been so easy. “Now predators can sit in their own homes and surf (the Internet) for hours,” said Jack Bristow, who spoke to about 125 adults Monday night at the Project Oz Parents Forum at Bloomington High School.

Other speakers with cybercrimes expertise were Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Keith, Bloomington Police Detective Bill Lynn, FBI agent Jeff Heinze and Mike Peterson, an account technology specialist with Microsoft. Bristow, a former police officer, teaches law enforcement in Pontiac.

“In almost every one of the cases, the child is almost always a willful participant,” said Keith, who told about a 16-year-old girl weeping on the witness stand. She said, “I love him with all I have” but she had never even met the predator in person. The sexual predator, who flew from California to Illinois, was caught by police before the two could meet. Part of the plan was having the girl drug her parents with sleeping pills.

Lynn had a list of texting acronyms for parents to watch for. They include GNOC (Get Naked on Camera), IWSN (I want sex now), and KPC (Keep Parents Clueless). What he called the most chilling was LMIRL (Let’s Meet in Real Life).

Keith suggested a new computer acronym — PGCO (Parents Going Covert Online).

The crowd was shown an example of how anyone can log in to a chat room as a 14-year-old boy. In one minute there was a paid porn site, and within two minutes there was an online conversation from a man who became graphically explicit.

Bristow previously selected an actual Web site of a Twin City co-ed and showed how easy it would be for him to stalk her — given the amount of information she put on the Internet, which included what classes she attended and where she worked.

Key points from speakers included:

-- Cautioning children never to put any information online identifying them to a stranger.

-- Keeping computers out of bedrooms or other rooms not in clear view of parents’ eyes.

-- Online gaming sites are increasingly a way predators strike up conversations with kids.

-- Installing monitoring software to find out what your children are doing online. “You’ll find out things you don’t want to know —- but you need to know,” said Lynn.

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