November 9, 2006
They sit at their computers hunting for their next victims. You've seen the reports. You know internet predators are out there and that they can be anyone. But here’s the frightening part…did you know you could be providing them information that could them right to your door step?
“Honestly I have no idea how many of them are out there I just know there are too many,” said Ben Lewis an investigator with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department and a member of the Blue Ridge Thunder.
Lewis tracks down internet predators. He's part of a local task force called the Blue Ridge Thunder that investigates the online sexual exploitation of children in Virginia and West Virginia. He said social networking sites like my space make things easy for sexual predators.
“People put out way too much information on their My Space accounts,” said Lewis.
Seemingly innocent information that can quickly lead would be hunters to potential victims.
“He lists his full name and both of parents’ names, so if I want to target him and his girlfriend all I have to do is look in a phone book,” remarked Lewis.
Information like your name, where you go to school, where you like to hang out and where you work can put you at risk.
“Like if you say you work at Applebee’s and you're in a geographic location where there is only one Applebee’s all a predator has to do is go to Applebee’s. I walk in the door I know you are going to be the first person I see because you said you’re the hostess. If I go there one night and you are not there I go back maybe tomorrow night. And I’ll continue to do that until I find you because I have a picture of you,” said Lewis
Investigators said predators will set up a fake my space account, pretend to be a teenager and prowl through profiles for victims. With one click of the mouse, they can search by age, location even hair color and that quickly get a list of possible targets.
“They can look at it over and over go to the web page and the more they look at it the more its going to heighten that sexual desire that they have and at some point they are going to act on it,” said Lewis.
There is one simple measure anyone with a My Space account can take that will in all likelihood prevent you from being a target. We'll show what that is tomorrow as we continue this special series Friday on CBS19 News at 11.