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Chandler woman warns about Snapchat's ugly side

Posted at 3:08 PM, Aug 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-17 07:47:11-04

It looks so harmless. You can choose a filter that will give you doggy ears, or one that enhances your facial features. But April Rainwater will tell you, the social media app Snapchat has her flaming mad.

"She fell victim to someone pretending to be a 14-year-old boy," Rainwater told us about her 11-year-old relative.

The young girl was convinced she was in a relationship. Rainwater doesn't think the person on the other end was a teenager at all, or that he even lives in the US.  

"She had two Snapchat accounts and the one I knew about was fine," Rainwater said. "So finally I said I need to see everything. I was pretty horrified."

Related: Mesa detective teaching parents preventative action against online predators

Snapchat lets users send photos and videos to other users, called Snaps. The Snaps then disappear after the recipient sees them. However, there are ways to save them. Rainwater found out the two planned to meet at a local park. When she confronted the stranger through a message, he threatened to post explicit pictures and videos of the girl online for everyone to see.

That's why Rainwater took the girl to an online safety class led by veteran detective and the founder of Online Safety Specialists, Scott Pietrzak. One of the topics he speaks on is online predators.

"They're throwing out as the many fish hooks as they can and they're hoping that they get that one bite and unfortunately it's happening way too often," Pietrzak said.

According to researchers at Pure Sight Technologies, internet sex predators are usually between the ages of 18 and 55, but their targets are usually between 11 and 15 years old.

"Parents out there are realizing that there aren't a lot of classes about this," said Pietrzak. "The schools aren't really teaching it, so they are happy to come here."

Rainwater said until police finish their investigation and the kids in her family grasp the consequences of corresponding with strangers, all phones in her house are on lockdown.

"We are trying to make the best of the bad situation we got into by getting out there and warning other people," she said.

For more on Online Safety Specialist classes, click here.