In part two of this special series we demonstrate how easy it is for online predators to find potential victims. With the help of the Louisa County Sheriff's Department we see how Louisa students may be revealing just a little too much that could lead predators to find them.
Louisa County High School Student Angela Gentry uses her MySpace.com account to keep up with friends. What she didn't know is that the information on her profile could be letting online predators keep tabs on her.
“When I pull up your profile a couple of things are kind of concerning,” said Patrick Siewert, school resource officer with the Louisa County Sheriff's Department. He monitors student profiles and makes kids aware the messages they're sending may be getting into the wrong hands.
“She did have her real name on there, where she lives, where she goes to work those are all things real easy to access,” said Siewert.
Often, children don't realize what seems innocent could be harmful.
“I didn't think that having my full name on there would matter that much,” said Gentry.
However, it does matter. Across the country sexual assaults and even murder have been linked to encounters through MySpace.
“I think a lot of people have the view, ‘it’s not going to happen to my kid’, but really, unfortunately, it happens every where,” cautioned Siewert.
With the help of police we searched MySpace for Louisa County High School students. Browsing through profiles, many listed their full name and the name and address of their school.
“You can narrow down where she lives and I don't even want to think about what can happen after that,” said Siewert.
We saw provocative photos as well.
“This guys says, ‘so you got my attention, when do you turn 18 again’,” commented Investigator Ben Lewis, a member of the Blue Ridge Thunder and Investigator with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department.
We also found other pictures that could lead predators to prey.
Viewing a photograph of a high school football player in his jersey, Lewis said, “If my preference was for teenage boys I could go to a Louisa County football game and if his name wasn't listed on there I could buy a program, then I’ve got his name.”
Then, it’s as easy as following him off the football field. And that's exactly what Angela Gentry's mom is trying to prevent by talking to her kids.
“We have told her about all the sexual predators on the Internet and not to talk to anyone or open up anything,” Angela’s mother told us.
However, what many parents don't know is that kids don't need to communicate directly with predators for predators to find them.
“Well, I really do appreciate this phone call. I had no idea,” said her mom.
“I'll be more careful what I put on there,” said Angela.
Angela is already being more careful after we spoke with her and her mom. She changed her profile account setting to private, which is the one simple solution that can prevent predators accessing your private and personal information.
Police also suggest parents monitor what their kids are posting on their profiles.