A Tulsa man who is still in jail could serve as a reminder for parents to keep an especially close eye on their kids.
Henry Ross, 23, is accused of preying on an underage girl he met on Facebook over the weekend. The 12-year-old girl said she was age 14 but police said when Ross started asking sexual questions she told a family member.
These conversations are not always caught but they are happening more often than many parents want to believe.
"This is the new virtual playground,” said Stop Child Trafficking Now (SCTNow) contractor Jason Weis.
One in five kids is exploited online. FOX23 sat down with Weis to get a firsthand look at how cyber predators start the conversation to lure underage girls.
Weis is part of a team who is trained by law enforcement and goes undercover to find cyber predators hunting children.
Posing as a 14-year-old girl, the online conversations started with a smiley face.
"It's important to note that I am not initiating any dialogue, they are coming to me,” said Weis. That’s all it took for potential predators such as one man to message “howdy”.
"There is our first one at 2:46[pm], so it wasn't even 30 seconds,” said Weis.
These are not dating chat rooms. Weis signed on to music chat rooms.
Most of the conversations started with the typical question: "ASL" which stands for age, sex, location.
"'19, male, Arizona,' he didn't even say 'I probably shouldn't be talking to you,'” said Weis.
Weis said if that man wasn’t a predator he wouldn’t be continuing the dialogue.
Another man asked a more explicit question.
"Do you like elder guys?” said one of the men.
Forty five minutes into chatting online with more than 20 men ages 18 to 33 all but one asks for a picture or web cam.
“Within two minutes, he was already saying ‘I've got cams and pics,” said Weis of a user.
Within three minutes another man knows the girl is 14 and he said he was 24.
Other men comment on the pictures that are exchanged.
"'Wow, really nice.' He's complimenting me because of my picture,” said Weis. “It's classic grooming, will make you feel accepted, make you feel wanted."
In four minutes another man who said he was 18 asked explicit questions.
"This guy is asking if I am a virgin,” said Weis of the chat.
Not long after that same man sent a picture of his private parts.
"We have a sick invisible war that people have no idea what is happening,” said Weis.
Another type of predator who started chatting tried to act guilty for starting a conversation.
User: “I'm older sorry I'll just let you go.”
Underage girl: “okay”
User: “I'm 30 by the way from Florida."
"It's like there is an inner battle going on with them at the computer. ‘Should I go or shouldn't I go?”’ said Weis.
Not every predator is so explicit but Weis said they are just as dangerous.
The predator who is patient and laid-back and takes their time chatting is also dangerous.
One man who Weis said he’s had several conversations with continues to be the patient man who subtly brings up suggestions.
User: “Wish I could be there”
He then made suggestions about meeting her but only if she was interested.
"He is really eager to meet,” said Weis.
Weis said there are four people on the SCTNow team who go undercover and track potential predators. Ones who ask to meet, send porn or make sexual proposals are immediately reported to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Every conversation is thorughouly logged and documented.
"If a parent is not willing to invest the time to protect their child online, some predator is willing to invest the time to get what they want,” said Weis.
SCTNow started reporting these types of cases to NCMEC six months ago. SCTNow reports there are six major investigations, 21 are pending and at least 20 to 30 conversations are a made a week with an undercover contractor.
Of the 22 men who made contact, only one quit the conversation after they found out the girl they were talking to was 14.
Stop Child Trafficking Now recommend parents should:
- Place computer in a common area of the home
- Know how to track the history & chats of sites visited by your children
- To be certain, parents can buy monitoring software to keep track of their kids' Internet use
- If you suspect there's a problem, try to establish dialogue. Let your kids know you're looking out for them and want to keep them safe
- Open a family e-mail account to share with younger children
- Be aware of other ways your child may be going online such as cell phones, laptops, or from friends’ homes or the library
- Should be certain of just who they're talking to online. Ask questions and be sure the person is who they say they are
- Log your chats and if something happens online that worries you, tell a parent right away. Parents should log chats too
- Never provide personal information such as your address, contact information, or where you go to school.
- Do not post pictures that can identify your school, home address or activities you're involved in