Victoria Police detectives are advising parents to speak with their children about staying safe online after a Victoria man was charged with 13 offences after allegedly attempting to lure underage teenage girls online.
A 28-year-old Victoria man faces three counts of luring a child under the age of 14, two counts of luring a child under the age of 18, four counts of communicating/obtaining sexual services of a person under the age of 18, two counts of uttering threats, and three counts of breaching probation. He has been remanded in custody.
Investigators have so far confirmed five victims, ranging from 12 to 17 years of age. While none of the victims were physically harmed, Special Victims Unit detectives see this incident as an occasion to remind parents and teens of what it takes to be careful online – particularly when it comes to geolocation settings for online photos, mapping features on social media sites, and a reminder to be wary of accepting friend requests from someone you do not know. Teens and kids are naturally curious and when a stranger contacts and compliments them on their profile information, they may feel flattered and intrigued. This is a classic grooming technique and should set off some warning bells.
“When you post online, it’s important to know who can see information about you,” said SVU Det. Sgt. Kristi Ross. “That doesn’t just include what you say or photos you share. You need to check the location settings on your devices to ensure you know when and where you’re posting your geolocation information. The best thing to do is to turn it off by default. ”
Three of the charges resulted from the suspect breaching conditions that specifically prohibited him from contacting young girls online – the result of previous similar incidents.
SVU detectives are also investigating the possibility that more victims have yet to come forward.
“There may be others out there who we have yet to hear from,” said Ross. “Parents would be well served to talk with their kids about what they’re doing online. It’s important to check in with your children often. If you discover that someone has been inappropriately contacting your kids online, consider reporting to your local police or through cybertip.ca. ”
Officers point to cybertip.ca as a strong resource for parents to access in helping inform their children about how to stay safe online.