This week I was contacted by a parent here on the Northern Beaches who’s daughter was duped by an online predator, who is posing as a well known Australian T.V show celebrity on Facebook.
This man, has set up many Facebook pages impersonating this particular Australian “Soap” star. In this particularly alarming case the predator then contacted this Northern Beaches girl, after she “liked” his page, pretending to be the actual “star”. After connecting with her, and “grooming” her, he then convinced this vulnerable young girl to disrobe in front of her webcam. Luckily this interaction was discovered by her mother before it went even further, but unfortunately not before the webcam disrobing took place.
Not only did this girl disrobe for this man, but its highly likely that he would have recorded the episode. Once that is done, it can be kept for more viewing later or uploaded to a pedophile website, and shared over and over all over the world through the pedophile networks.
This girls mother discovered that her daughter had friended and was talking online with this predator after walking past her daughter on her computer and seeing some sexual words appear in her daughters Facebook messaging chat, she was rightly concerned and immediately looked into her daughters computer and to her horror found out what was going on. She called the police, and then called me.
The police are still investigating. There is still a Fake Page pretending to be this T.V star on Facebook. The predator has not been caught…yet. It’s possible he won’t be. There will be others doing this exact same thing.
How Can This Happen?
Facebook pages can be set up by anyone, you can have as many as you want, you can use any picture or name you want on the Page. It is against the Facebook terms of service to impersonate another person on Facebook, but Facebook don’t have checks and balances in place when pages are set up, they rely on users reporting a Fake Page or Profile before they take a Fake page or a Fake profile down. Celebrity Fan pages are commonly set up by fans who adore their Idol, and want to celebrate them, these type of Fan pages are allowed on Facebook much like real life Fan Clubs are set up.
These Australian T.V Star fake pages were purposely set up to look like the official pages. The predator behind them, knew he would get young girls that fitted his particular preferred profile of victim “Liking” his page. If the victim also has photos of herself, her age, and personal details publicly available to a stranger on Facebook, (not set to “Only Me” on their profile), then the predator can easily get enough information to be sure the victim will be easily coerced and groomed. From a predators point of view knowing your victims “likes” where they live, and who their friends are is a great way to build rapport with your victim, and after time convince them that you will be their “boyfriend” and ask for online sexual favours. We can assume this young girl is not the first or the last victim of this predator.
It’s also likely that this girls friends may have been approached by this man.
Unfortunately the young girl in this story, had a public profile, all her details could be seen openly by any stranger, this predator had no problems contacting her, or friending her. Messaging on Facebook is no longer friends only.
How Did The Cyber Safety Lady Help?
I made sure, with this girls permission, that I set all her details and posts to either “only me” or to friends only. I also set up all her privacy setting to the most secure ones available so that she could still communicate with her real friends, but be private to strangers. You might ask why the parent didn’t just take her daughter off Facebook? For this particular girl the parent felt it important that she still be on Facebook for social reasons. She also belonged to some supportive groups on Facebook.
I will be working with the parent to probably disable the webcam for a time, and set up a parental controlled computer account so that this particular girl can be safer. Note: I use the word “safer” not safe. There is no fail safe privacy on the Internet. The best thing you can do for safety is try to be as private and careful as you can be, be informed, set up privacy on all social media applications including Skype and supervise your child online, constantly. The mother in this story has her daughter’s computer set up in a family area, if she hadn’t been able to look over her daughters shoulder…..No computers in bedrooms!
I may also work with the girl to educate her on how to stay as safe as possible online, whilst still being able to socialise online. I will also talk to the parent about a supervising app, that will notify the parent if the daughter starts to get into trouble again.
Teach your children not to connect with anyone they don’t really know well in real life, and supervise who they friend online. Not a friend of a friend. And to be dubious about any “celebrity” wanting to message them or friend them online.
Talk openly about the dangers of using webcams, and about sexuality online.
Be sure your children have their profiles locked up and set to private, so that a complete stranger cannot scout their profile to see if they match their preferred victim profile. This particular predator could easily see if this girl fitted his preferred victim profile, because the girl had a public profile. Some of this girls photos were posted as public, not to friends, all her “likes” and friends and some of her posts were also public.
Set your and your child’s profile to private BEFORE something goes wrong! See my post how to do that here:
Set up the most recent in-depth Privacy Settings on Facebook. See my Step By Step Tutorial Here:
Contact me if you don’t feel confident with setting all of this up. I can do remote via the Internet set ups.
Any questions please put in comments below! And pass this post around, parents need to be forewarned!