Predators using phone app to target children

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – If you haven’t heard of your tween or teen’s favorite app yet, well here it is: It’s called ‘Omegle.’

Its motto is – talk to strangers. And once on, that’s exactly what you do. But, after a number of arrests, local law enforcement has a warning about this app and it may sound like the one your parents gave to you when you were a kid.

NEWS10ABC’s Anya Tucker has the exclusive story.

When we were kids it was the first rule regarding strangers: Don’t talk to them! But, once on The Omegle app you can be randomly connected to strangers all over the world.

These connections aren’t always between kids, but rather with adults, pretending to be much younger, who are trolling for children.

Kids seem to love it. Some posts, their webchats, pranks and even sexually explicit exchanges right on YouTube.

It’s called Omegle.

With a mix of kids and sexual overtones, it may come as no surprise that police say its growing number of fans now includes sexual predators.

“They think I’m just another user on Omegle and my persona is a 13-year-old male,” said an investigator.

NEWS10ABC’s Anya Tucker sat down with an investigator who has spent his career successfully hunting down sexual predators for local law enforcement and the FBI. We’re obscuring his face to protect his identity.

Anya says she quickly found for herself, why that is. Much like our investigator she created her own profile – and almost instantly the chat requests popped up. Within In minutes the tone turned sexual.

Ultimately what’s happening is kids are sending personal information, photos videos.

Our investigator says these photos often lead to a kind of blackmail, better known as Sextortion.

It’s when the predator extorts increasingly sexually photos and videos from their young victims. They keep the child quiet by threatening to e-mail the intimate conversations or images their victims have already shared with them to that child’s family members, Facebook friends and classmates.

The bad guy then knows as soon as that one photo is sent.

“They own them. They do. And they will send more pictures. Or we have cases where videoed are sent; graphic videos. We’ve had kids as young as 8-years-old that are sending videos,” said the investigator.

There are a growing number of Omegle related arrests growing nationwide. Just two weeks ago Colonie police arrested a man accused of uploading child pornography on Omegle.

“Omegle has become a perfect platform for someone looking for children to meet online,” said the investigator.

In Omegle’s defense, law enforcement says they are much more aggressive than many other sites such as ‘Kik’ at pinpointing possible predators and handling that information over to the authorities.

The bottom line lesson from this: Parents need to stay on top of their children’s social media use AND most importantly keep the doors of communication open.

(Special Thanks to RickAir Productions for providing background music for this story.)

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