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Possible online predator targets Spokane child

SPOKANE, Wash. - A website that sells itself as a great way to meet new friends has a north Spokane grandfather concerned his 11-year-old grandson may have been taken advantage of by a sexual predator.

According to court documents, the grandfather called the Spokane County Sheriff's Office to report that his grandson had been communicating online with an unknown person who asked the boy to see his “private parts.”

The boy had entered the online chat room claiming to be 15 years old. The unknown chatter claimed to be a 17-year-old girl who promised to show her private parts if the boy showed his.

The online conversation took place through at the website Omegle.com. It's a website that says it picks someone else at random for the user to talk one-one-one with.

On its home page, Omegle.com readily admits that predators have been known to use the application.

“To help you stay safe, chats are anonymous unless you tell someone who you are (not suggested!), and you can stop a chat at any time. Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.” 

According to court documents, the 11-year-old boy's online conversation soon turned into sexual performance for the computer's camera and the eyes of the stranger on the other end of the cyber peep hole. The unknown chatter never activated their own camera so the boy never knew who he was chatting with.

When interviewed by investigators, the boy admitted to chatting online with three people in the dark hours of the night while his grandfather slept. With the first two people, the boy says he catted about video games. It was the third conversation that turned sexual.

Spokane police warn that all the safety tips and danger warnings that apply to “chatting” online now apply to gaming consoles as well as computers and smart phones.

"There are many normal people on these websites but there are predators who target kids," said Spokane Police Officer John O'Brien.

In the small print on Omegle.com the website says, “Do not use Omegle if you are under 13. If you are under 18, use it only with a parent/guardian's permission. Do not transmit nudity, sexually harass anyone...”

Despite the small print police say both kids and predators easily navigate around the restrictions.

"Every parent of a victim thought, 'It couldn't happen to my kid.'" said O'Brien. "The best thing parents can do to protect their kids is try to be involved with their kids as much as they can."   

Sheriff detectives have requested a search warrant that would allow them to obtain the IP (Internet Protocol) address of the unknown chatter and file charges against that person.


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