Internet Predator Facts and Signs

Monday, March 1, 2010

Internet predators are out there. Period. They are lurking in the corners of the same spaces your loved ones are in. The Internet provides a shield for the growing number of predators out there. It allows for them to use fake aliases and photos in order to pretend they’re someone else.

Internet predators target both boys and girls of all ages. They lie and manipulate, try to come across as someone who “cares” or someone who “listens” to them, especially during a rough patch in teen years. They make friends with kids who seem emotionally vulnerable and typically respond to any complaints in a sympathetic, “understanding” sort of way.

McGruff Safeguard is here to help stop Internet predators by allowing parents to download software in order to monitor chats, emails, and social media networking activity that your child is involved with, such as Facebook or Myspace. It gives our experts the opportunity to monitor the conversations and look for such content that may be alarming and report it to the parents.

Here are some warning signs that we’ve come across that parents can look for if they suspect suspicious activity along with using McGruff Safeguard:

Predator Warning Signs

  • Child spends a lot of time online
  • You find porn on the computer
  • Receive phone calls, mail, or gifts from people you don’t know
  • Withdrawal from normal activity
  • Switches tabs quickly if you enter a room (this can be done by pressing Alt + Tab)
  • Uses other accounts for e-mail or Instant Messaging

McGruff Safeguard monitors for a variety of things outside of predators as well, such as depression, drug abuse, lying, sneaking around, acronyms, sexual abuse, suicide, etc. Our software enables us to detect that is going on with your loved ones to get you the information you need to facilitate conversation. It’s a fact that the Internet is a part of our everyday lives and the lives of our kids. By choosing McGruff Safeguard, you’re choosing to help protect your children.

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posted by Lindsay Manfredi at 9:02 AM Link to this Article  0 Comments

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Lastest Michigan Internet predator arrest

Monday, February 22, 2010

McGruff Safeguard will continue to keep you up-to-date on Internet Predator Stings. Here is a story out of Lansing MI of their most recent Internet predator encounter and arrest:

Attorney General Mike Cox today announced the results of an undercover Internet child predator sting that led to the arrest of a Grand Rapids resident.

Scott Alan Owen, 28, is accused of using the Internet to solicit a minor for sex after making advances in online chats towards who he thought was a 14-year-old girl. He was actually chatting with investigators from the Attorney General's office and the volunteer organization Perverted Justice.

"The Internet can be a dangerous place, making it critically important parents know what their children are doing online," said Cox.

Owen, who reports he is employed by a local manufacturing company and identified himself as a member of the National Guard, was arraigned yesterday in 63-2 District Court before Judge Sara J. Smolenski on one count of using the Internet to accost a child for immoral purposes, a 10-year felony and one count of using a computer to disseminate sexually explicit matter to a minor, a four-year felony . Bond was set at $5,000, and Owen is scheduled to be in court for a Preliminary Examination on January 20, 2010.

Using the screen name " recon101_2000 ," the defendant engaged in sexually explicit chats and solicited undercover agents posing as a 14-year-old girl. Working together, the Attorney General's office and Perverted Justice identified the defendant and arrested him in his Grand Rapids home.

If parents believe their child had contact with Owen, they are asked to contact the Attorney General's office at (313) 456-0180. Parents and schools may also contact the Attorney General's office for information on our award-winning educational program, the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative (Michigan CSI), which has been taught to more than 400,000 Michigan children.

To date, the Attorney General and his Child and Public Protection Unit have arrested 253 Internet sex predators. An August 2009 sting in Livingston County yielded nine arrests, while 21 predators were arrested during an October 2008 sting in Grand Rapids.

Just as Attorney General Mike Cox suggests, it is important to know what your kids are doing online, and it’s also important to know who they’re chatting with. By monitoring with McGruff Safeguard, you can be sure that you and your local authorities are the first to know if anyone solicits your child. Contact us today to let us know how we can help you protect your loved ones.

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posted by Lindsay Manfredi at 9:45 AM Link to this Article  0 Comments

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When strangers friend your kids: A parent's view

Friday, February 19, 2010

I happened to be sitting in a Starbucks on Tuesday, waiting for my scheduled meeting party to arrive. There was a woman and a man sitting about five feet away from me. The woman must not have minded my presence because she was not making any attempt to keep her conversation private. (Good for me because I got a parent’s take on Facebook and my meeting was 30 minutes late.)

So this Mom is talking to this guy. They were both in their 40’s. She was talking about her 15-year olds Facebook. The Mom was also a Facebook user. The mother had accepted a random 50-year old man’s friend request. She didn’t really know the guy but said she was open to meeting new people and they had been chatting and emailing.

The next thing she knew, the man had befriended her daughter. “What is a 50-year old man befriending my daughter for? He doesn’t know her. That is creepy and weird. My daughter must have thought that was okay because he was one of my friends. She must have thought I knew him from my work circle or something.”

The mom went on to say that this man had requested to be friends with many of her friends. She seemed creeped out enough by this that she told her daughter to take him off as her friend and she did the same.

Facebook is a great social network but there are some creepy folks out there that may find adults to friend, then friend their children. If you’ve never thought about getting a Facebook account yourself, perhaps it may be a good idea. That way, you can see who your kid’s friends are. Between monitoring from an outside perspective and using McGruff Safeguard, you can rest assured that we can see if there is any behavior that is out of the ordinary, then alert you.

It was good to see that this mother was on top of what was going on in her teen’s social media realm. It was also nice to see that she recognized a potential danger and put a stop to it. What are some of your experiences as parents? Has anything like this happened in your world? Are you a member of a social network? We’d love to hear from you.

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posted by Lindsay Manfredi at 5:58 AM Link to this Article  0 Comments

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Chatroulette (Chat Roulette)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Yesterday, I was video chatting with one of my best friends in Florida. Video chatting is awesome when someone like me lives in Indiana and has friends all over the world. But I’m an adult. This makes me wonder how our kids are using video chatting. With new models of computers with built-in cameras, this makes it easy for strangers to actually SEE our kids.

Okay, back to my conversation with my Florida friend. We’re talking about how we love to video chat because we never get to see each other, and it’s like sitting in the same room with him when we talk. He was telling me about this new website called Chatroulette. Chatroulette is a website where you can pop in, turn your camera on, and randomly start talking to strangers all over the world, face to face. At the time I am writing this blog, Monday morning, there are 14,280 users on Chatroulette.

Under the “terms and conditions” the participator must be at least 16 years-old and ChatRoulette does not tolerate broadcasting obscene, offending, pornographic material. They say they will block any users who violate those rules. However, it would take someone “reporting” the behavior in order for any consequences to happen.

That said, there are a couple of different sides I see to this. 1) This is a bit scary because kids can lie and get on there at ages younger than 16, and some sicko won’t report it because he/she is loving it. Or 2) if the kids see who they’re talking to, perhaps that would sway them to not chat with them anymore.

The psychology is different for different kids. Some may do it because of the “thrill” of it. Some may be more leery. However, regardless of who is more responsible, the danger that our kids could be chatting it up with someone who could potentially harm them is there. Know who your kids are chatting with and how long they are spending online in chat rooms. Download McGruff Safeguard. Help us help you keep your loved ones safe online.


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posted by Lindsay Manfredi at 6:14 AM Link to this Article  1 Comments

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Alicia’s Story: Tortured and raped by an Internet Predator

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Internet can be a scary place for teenagers. Last April, Oprah did a story on Alicia. I wanted to share it with you because 1) even though we think our teens are responsible, sometimes they make decisions with out really thinking about the consequences and 2) internet predators LIE. They will say and do almost anything to get what they want. Here is her story as reported from Oprah :

When Alicia was 13 years old, she made headlines as the girl who was lured by an Internet predator—and survived.

Alicia was a shy girl from a close-knit family, but on New Year's Day in 2002, she did something completely out of character. She agreed to meet a friend she had been chatting with online for eight months.

Alicia says she hated the cold and never went outside alone after dark. "Yet it's the coldest, darkest iciest night of the year and I walk out my front door to meet a total stranger," she says. "That's something that's so out of my character and just shows you an example of how intense the brainwashing is."

"I can remember standing behind a tree and thinking, 'This is really stupid.' My senses came back to me for a second." At that moment, Alicia says she heard her name being called out and got into the car with 38-year-old Scott Tyree. "Once I got near him, something changed and I realized that this person's a monster," Alicia says.

Tyree drove Alicia to his home in Virginia. Over the next four days, Alicia says she was raped, bound in chains, shocked with volts of electricity and hung by her arms as her 13-year-old body was beaten.

"He tortured me," Alicia says. "He treated me like an animal—a dog. I basically did whatever I had to to survive. It's like I'm a whole entirely different person. That man did kill that little girl. He did. That girl's completely dead."

Tyree bragged to his friends about the girl held captive in his basement. He even videotaped her bound and chained and shared those images over the Internet.

One of the friends Tyree had been sharing his webcam videos with online saw Alicia's face in the newspaper and decided to turn Tyree in. "I suppose he got nervous that this was now going to be on his hands if [Tyree] murdered me," Alicia says.

After four days of sheer hell, Alicia was rescued by the FBI. She was found chained to the ground by lock and collar. "When I said he treated me like a dog, he did," Alicia says.

Alicia says she now realizes she was groomed by a child predator. "He groomed me, and in doing so, he brainwashed me. That sounds crazy, but he did. He took apart the 13-year-old girl that I was and created this creature that he wanted me to be."

To understand what it's like to be groomed, Alicia says to remember what it was like to be 13 years old. "There's days where the world's wonderful, and there's days where it seems like the world just hates you." The bad days are when Alicia says the predators step in. "There's somebody there, always there, to tell you that it's going to be okay."

Alicia says it was the simple things Tyree would say to gain her trust. "Like getting in a fight with your mom because you wouldn't clean your room. And he'd say: 'Oh, well, why would she treat you like that? You're an adult. It's her room, she'll clean it.' Or you get a bad grade in school and he'll look at the answer you gave and say: 'No, that's right. You're really smart. You think outside of the box. Your teacher is an absolute idiot.'

"After eight months of talking like that, it takes you apart," Alicia says. "It does. And he's always there, all the time."

When Alicia started her relationship with Tyree, social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook didn't exist yet. "That wasn't even around when this happened to me, so there's this whole other level of danger they need to be aware of, and it's sad. It's sad because it should be something wonderful connecting with your friends. That's something children should be able to do. But the world's so scary that they can't. There's so many bad people in it that they can't, and that's horribly sad."

Tyree pled guilty to charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and travel with intent to engage in sexual activity with a minor. He was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison.

Alicia is now fighting to keep predators like Tyree behind bars. A junior in college, she spends much of her time speaking at schools about her ordeal, and hopes to join the FBI so she can fight for other children.

Learn about Alicia's Law here.

When we hear of stories like these, it just goes to show how important it is to monitor your children's online interactions. You can never be too safe when it comes to your children. If you've not already, download McGruff Safeguard today. Help us help you keep your loved ones safe.


Picture from Oprah.com


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posted by Lindsay Manfredi at 12:06 PM Link to this Article  0 Comments

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Girl on Girl Fighting: A scary new trend

Monday, February 8, 2010

Last week, The Early Show did a report about a scary trend that has been emerging. Viral videos of teen girls fighting have been popping up across the country. In the video you see here, there are two adults watching, both who have now been charged with felony counts of cruelty to a juvenile because nothing was done to stop the fighting. (Click "The Early Show" to view report and video.)


Is this something that is becoming glorified? The Early Show reported that before, it was mainly boys who got into fights. Now with the technology so readily available to video these kinds of activities, and with the psychological push that someone can become a viral celebrity overnight, I am wondering if this is just fueling the need for some teens to be noticed.


According the local educators, almost 80% of school fights are now girl on girl, which some believe is fueled by the internet. Which brings us to what are kids are viewing online, is it good? Is it healthy?

When we think about what our kids have access to online during this influential time in their life, are you curious to know what they’re viewing? Do you think knowing for sure what they’re influenced by would help you facilitate conversation with them? These are not just “teen” issues. There are serious consequences to those who participate in these types of behaviors that can haunt them later on down the road.


It is so important for parents to discuss these crucial matters with kids. Not only must we discuss these issues, we must also be a positive influence on them. If our kids don’t see us behaving in a positive manner toward others, for example, if we are mean and tend to want to fight or be hateful, what makes us think they would be any different?


By downloading McGruff Safeguard, you are choosing to be a part of their life. You are choosing to know what they're into. Understand the kinds of influences that are shaping them. By downloading McGruff Safeguard, we can give you exact information on what they’re viewing online. Let’s all be a part of the solution. What are your thoughts?

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posted by Lindsay Manfredi at 8:04 AM Link to this Article  0 Comments

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Facebook hits new milestone

Friday, February 5, 2010

For those of you who aren’t a “techy” type like me and keep up with the news, Facebook just celebrated it’s 6th birthday. Along with that birthday came a new milestone as the popular social networking site just hit its 4 million member mark.


Mashable, a top social media news site, reports:

Two months ago the social network hit 350 million, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg reminds us that number was less than half of today’s 400 million mark a year ago. It took the site about three months to climb from 300 to 350 million users and only about two months to gain another 50 million, indicating Facebook’s explosive growth is actually still accelerating.

As great as this is for Facebook, this only ups the ante for internet predators to interact with kids and teens. This is why it is so important to incorporate McGruff Safeguard into an everyday habit. Parents can feel more at ease knowing their conversations are monitored to inform them of any suspicious activity. However, its not just about catching internet predators, it’s also about keeping kids and teens safe from themselves. In other words, if there is any sign of depression or suicidal thoughts, we inform the parents strait away. If we notice any suspicion of drug use, or sexual abuse, we let parents know.

Facebook has been a huge communication platform for people of all ages and it started with the Gen Y’ers. There have been many posts that cause concern, and some lives have been saved because of this social network. A few months back, I posted about how my friend had noticed her nephew’s posts were getting more and more disturbing to him. She ended up reaching out to him because of these posts. It ended up being a pivotal moment because he was sad and was contemplating suicide. He is doing much better now since his aunt reached out.

We’ve had parents share stories with us. We’ve heard stories of success, of deeper communication, and also stories where parents were just grateful to know a little better about what their kids were up to, good, bad and ugly.

As popular social sites grow, so does the need for more monitoring and more concern over who is on these site. Download McGruff Safeguard today. Join the force that is dedicated to knowing their children better.

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