The FBI is warning the public of a ruse being used by criminals to lure minors into an abduction situation. The FBI says that minors are currently at great risk of being lured into in-person meetings with abductors over social media platforms due to school closures and lock downs caused by COVID-19.
FBI investigations indicate that child abductors are posing as minors on profiles created on social media into the attempt of gaining trust of actual minors to lure them to in-person meetings. In some cases, child victims are groomed online, enticing them to meeting an abductor in person by gaining false trust. The FBI says that abductors are using the online means because the risk of immediate detection by law enforcement is much lower online. According to the FBI, open source research indicates 22% of teenagers log on to their preferred social website more than 10 times per day and 50% children log on more than once a day.
In June, a 13-year old girl was reported missing by her father who said she had met someone on a social media platform the week prior. According to the investigation, the 13-year old was in communication with a 21 year old man who traveled from Louisiana to Texas to pick them up. The victim later revealed that she thought she had met a new friend who would help her run away to Mexico. Customs and Border authorities were able to stop the abductor’s vehicle and recover the victim who allegedly had been victim of sexual assault.
Jacksonville Police authorities receive numerous tips per week concerning compromising social media messages, grooming activities, and revenge porn schemes in the local area.
If you believe you or someone you know is the target of child abduction or any other social media ruse of a sexual nature, especially those involving a minor; the FBI urges you to contact your local law enforcement or FBI field office and file a complaint. Victims are encouraged to keep all original documentation, emails, text messages, screenshots, and logs of communication. Do not delete anything before law enforcement has a chance to review it. Victims of these scams are also asked to divulge any information about the online encounters despite their sensitivity. It would be absolutely necessary in finding the offender.
Parents and victims are also asked not to forward any communications, disconnect compromised devices like laptops, tablets, and cellphones from Wi-fi networks and location services, and consult with a local cyber security expert to see how you can resume or replace the device that’s been compromised.