The Federal Bureau of Investigations in Phoenix is telling parents to check their child’s smartphone as part of a back-to-school warning about cyber crimes.
“Predators are going to go where children are to take advantage of them so if there's a new app that might be popular with children, predators will probably start to move to those particular apps,” said FBI special agent Martin Hellmer in Phoenix.
The warning comes as an Arizona man was arrested for allegedly trying to lure a 13-year-old girl from Florida to be his “sex slave.” The Polk County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday that 30-year-old Kevin Dock taken into custody outside a Tucson pet store where he allegedly intended to meet the victim.
Investigators say Dock connected with the teen on a social media site called Roleplay.me and continued his communications with her on the Google Hangouts app.
"This is a 13-year-old child who has mental health issues who goes on to Roleplay and she blends Roleplay and reality. The sexual predator takes advantage of that,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. "We will chase people to the ends of the earth when they want to harm our children. Period."
It can be difficult for parents to keep up with the latest apps and social media, so the FBI in Phoenix encourages parents to look through the child’s phone regularly to spot any suspicious activity.
“We hire and employ computer scientists and people with technical backgrounds so that we can keep up with the trends,” said Hellmer.
If you or your child has become a victim of an online crime, Hellmer says you can make a report with the FBI by submitting a complaint at www.ic3.gov.
Here are the FBI’s ten basic phone/computer tips for child safety.
- The phone should default to a locked setting. The only people who should have that access code are the child and the parent.
- Parents should know every password to every device and every password to every app on that device. Sure you want your kids to have some privacy as they grow up, but they are still kids. You pay the bill, and as long as that child is a child, he or she is your responsibility.
- Check those accounts—as well as instant messaging programs and texts—for disturbing content on a regular basis. You and your kids should have a non-negotiable understanding that this access is a requirement for continued phone use.
- Parents should make sure their child is using appropriate screen names. "Babygirl2005" and "sweet16" may sound cute and innocent, but they can be a beacon to predators.
- Check the privacy and security settings on the phone and the apps. Check regularly to make sure they are up-to-date.
- Learn about how photos are geo-tagged. Even if you are discreet about what you post, your photos could be tagged in the meta-data with your child’s exact location. Do you want just anybody to know what school your child goes to or what field his team uses for soccer practice? You should be able to turn this feature off in settings.
- Teach your kids to never respond to calls, texts, or e-mails from unknown numbers or people. Scam artists and predators will victimize anyone, regardless of age.
- Talk early and often to your child about the dangers that they may find on the other end of the line. If your child is old enough to carry a phone to school, he is old enough to have a frank discussion with you. Be open and responsive. If your child does encounter a bully or other disturbing content, you want him to feel like he can come to you to for help.
- Talk to your kids about what constitutes appropriate language and photos. One sexually explicit photo can change a life forever. It is crucial that they understand that just because something starts out as a private communication between two people does not mean that it can't be shared with thousands of people in mere seconds.
- Teach your children to program the privacy settings on social media feeds to the highest level and to reject any "friend requests" from those they don't know and trust in a face-to-face relationship. Parents should also consider forbidding any new “friend requests” by their kids, without parent approval.