Predators using fake Facebook profiles to lure in underage victims

PHOENIX - Chances are your teen probably spends more time talking to people on social media than they spend talking to you, but how do you know the person they're chatting with is really who they say they are and not a predator posing as someone else?

"I think it's becoming more common. I think predators are starting to use social media to their advantage," said ICE Special Agent Gary Nork.

Nork spends his days catching bad guys trolling the internet for underage victims. He said Michael Dean Ross was doing just that.

"He was using the Facebook page to friend 14 to 16-year-old girls in the Phoenix area using this fake identity," Nork said.

The 40-year-old posed as someone much younger, sending friend requests to try to lure in victims.

"All it took was for him to friend one individual, one person to accept him which gave him access to that individual's friend list of 5, 6, 700 minors," Nork said.

Ross is behind bars, but Nork said there are plenty of others out there just like him.

"The only thing that's lessening about this type of offense is the age of the victim. We're finding more and more that we're getting down to toddler, infant age images of child pornography," Nork said.

What can you do to keep your kids safe?

Share these ten tips with them:

-Never share pictures of yourself online you wouldn’t want to be seen by your family, teachers or a total stranger.

-Don’t respond to offensive content and don’t forward images or information that might hurt or embarrass someone.

-Don’t accept friend requests from strangers. Change your passwords regularly so strangers can’t find you.

-Set user profile to private so only real friends can get access. Know who you’re chatting with – a “friend” is not always a friend.

-Don’t share personal information online like your full name, school, address or phone number, or user passwords.

-Remember that anything posted online lives on forever and can be shared with anyone anywhere in the world.

-Stop the harassment. Treat people online as you would in person and don’t be mean or rude. Report cyber bullying to a trusted adult.

-Tell an adult if someone makes you feel uncomfortable by their actions or words. If you suspect online “stalking,” sexual exploitation, or other suspicious behavior, report it to law enforcement.

-Don’t meet up in person with anyone you met online.

-Check your privacy settings on social media sites frequently, as they can reset due to site updates.



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