FBI warns Florida students of internet predators searching for victims on social media

'As soon as you send that picture, you can't get it back,' FBI agent says

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Veteran FBI Agent Kevin Kaufman is visiting local classrooms in Seminole and Orange counties to warn students not to trust strangers on the internet, who may try to turn conversations into sexual encounters or ask for photographs.

“It’s constant, I wish it wasn’t," Kaufman said of predators targeting kids. “I like to say, 'Anyone that has access to the internet, that is a child is (who) vulnerable.'”

Kaufman delivers his warning to students and their parents in separate PowerPoint presentations. He said the biggest mistake anyone can make on social media is to post a profile photo.

“There’s no reason to have an online profile picture, because it identifies who you are," Kaufman said. "Put your dog, something else, (there's) no reason to put your profile picture up there.”

Kaufman said he recently interviewed a young boy who was lured by an online predator. In Kaufman’s view, the student, like most people on the internet, was “too trusting.”

“Predators do this 24 hours a day, they’re professionals," he said, adding that red flags are when they ask questions, like, "What age are you, boy or girl, do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend (and) the next one is, have you ever had sex?"

Chris Hadnagy, of Social Engineering LLC, said hackers also use profile pictures to their advantage because they know who they have targeted.

Hadnagy works with law enforcement agencies to expose online predators. He said predators earn victims' trust and then intimidate them to gain access to intimate photographs.

“If they know it’s a younger female, they’ll say we have your web cam on, we’ve video taped you in your bedroom,” he said. “We are going to send this to your parents, boyfriend, school mates.”

Hadnagy said that ploy is known as “sexploitation,” which is what online predators use to convince young victims to provide additional video and photos.

The FBI began delivering the warning to high school students but found that students who had already had cellphones and smart devices for a few years weren’t receptive to the presentation, so now they start informing students in middle school, along with their parents.

“The key is to educate parents and to educate kids of the dangers of what we see in society," Kaufman said. “A lot of predators are using video (games) to befriend your kid online, that’s 12 years of experience versus a guy that's 40 years old.”

Kaufman said many of his investigations involve kids ages 7 years and older.

“Kids don’t see that they're victims," the FBI agent said. "As soon as you send that post or as soon as you send that picture, you can’t get it back,  and it’s out there forever.”

The FBI has developed video training games for fourth-to- eighth-grade students, click here to try to out the training.

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