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Case study one

Olivia visited a chat room where she was talking to friends about her favourite band. A guy she hadn’t met before read her profile and said hi. They started chatting, and Olivia got on really well with him – he seemed to agree with everything she thought and said which was cool. After some time, he asked her for her Instant Message (IM) address so they could chat more privately.

Olivia accepted him onto her contact list and after a few weeks of chatting through IM every day she felt she knew him pretty well. He sent a photo of himself to her and she thought he looked really nice, so when he asked her to send him a sexy photo of herself – she felt apprehensive, but sent one anyway. He told her that she looked great and suggested meeting up.

Olivia felt quite uncomfortable with this, since she felt that he was still a stranger – however well they were getting on, so she refused. Her new ‘friend’ got upset with her and then aggressive and ended up saying that unless she agreed to meet up, he would send her sexy photo to all the people in the chat area.

Olivia was mortified, and really wasn’t sure what to do, especially since she had started to worry about his intentions. Not only was he blackmailing her but he was also making really suggestive comments which she felt very uneasy about.

One of Olivia’s friends advised Olivia that she shouldn’t have to put up with ‘freaky guys’ like this one, and told her to save her conversations with him, and report them to the Virtual Global Taskforce by pasting them onto the reporting form. This was referred to a police officer who began to make enquiries and investigate further. Olivia was relieved that she didn’t have to deal with the man on her own, and also found some great advice and support on the website.

Case study two

A mother informed the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) that an individual had hacked into an account belonging to a friend of her son and been able to establish contact with her son.

In the email correspondence that she saw, the person had requested a mobile telephone number for her son. When she spoke with her son, it transpired that he had made arrangements to meet up with the individual in a secluded area described as a local deserted spot.

The mother was able to ensure that her son did not meet the individual and reported the matter to the VGT. The VGT forwarded the report to the local police service, who was then able to identify the individual from the details given by the mother and advise on how to continue to keep her son safe. The adult was 41 years of age and not a teenager as he had indicated.

Case study three

A complaint was made by a parent that an adult had exposed himself to her children aged 9 and 13 via webcam. Enquiries were made which identified that the 25-year-old man had entered a popular teenage site giving his details as that of a teenage boy. He said that he was aged 14.

A complaint was made to the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) and responded to by a local police officer. The company running the site banned the adult. The officer was able to inform the parent that an offence appeared to have been committed as, by exposing himself, the suspect may have committed an offence of indecency with, or towards a child.

Case study four

Jennifer is 13 and regularly plays a fantasy role-playing game. The game has a chat system which she likes because it helps her advance through the levels at a faster pace. Jennifer chatted with someone who started to ask her for her details like her mobile number. She was also asked if she wanted to have sex.

Jennifer immediately stopped using the chat on the game but, a few days later, she discovered that the person had gained access to her messenger account through the game. She contacted the VGT and was able to provide VGT with a profile of a 34-year-old man.

A police officer got in touch and advised Jennifer to speak to an adult and inform them of what had happened. The game site was also informed about what had happened so that monitoring could take place. Because it appeared that Jennifer’s account had been hacked, she was also advised to report this to her gaming provider.

She was told not to give out personal details or accept files as this was probably how the person had hacked in to her account. Jennifer was also advised to talk to her friends and establish a password verbally that could be used to make sure they know who they are talking to. The local police were informed.

Case study five

Harry was having a very difficult time at school last term, he was pretty unhappy. He wasn’t doing as well as usual with schoolwork, but he found playing online games with other people would make him feel a lot better. It was just a way he was able to escape all the bad stuff going on.

Most of the games Harry played online allowed him to send messages to other players, and sometimes he would start a private chat with them to discuss cheats, tips and other ways to play the games, just general things like that.

He got to know this one guy named Paul, pretty well because he was obsessed with the same game Harry was. Paul lived in a different city to Harry but they became really good mates and would meet in private chat rooms quite regularly. He really seemed to understand Harry, and how unhappy he was at school. Paul told Harry that he could always speak with him about things as he was going through the same thing.

Harry got to know Paul that well they decided to exchange mobile phone numbers and email addresses. So that way when Mom or Dad would kick either of them off the computer, or make them go to bed, they could still text each other. One day Paul started to ask Harry some very personal questions and Harry didn’t think it was that strange because they had become such good mates. Paul told Harry that it was what mates are meant to talk about from time to time. So Harry thought it was okay.

It came to the holidays but Harry wasn’t excited as he didn’t really want to do anything. Paul suggested that it was about time that they met up for real. First Paul had to speak with his parents to see if Harry could stay over. Paul’s parents said that it was fine and offered to buy the plane ticket over there.

Harry thought if he told his parents, they wouldn’t understand or let him go, so he decided not to tell them. He just packed a bag and caught the bus down to the airport. When Harry arrived at the airport at the other end, he received a text from Paul saying they should meet up at this hotel he was staying at with his Dad instead. Harry didn’t stop to think it may have been a bad idea to go, he just jumped in the cab and went.

Luckily for Harry he never did end up making it to the hotel that day because the cab was intercepted by police. They told Harry that his parents caught on to what was going on, and how they were very concerned and upset so they called the police. The police took Harry to the station where he was able to meet up with his parents. They all sat down together and told Harry how his friend, who thought was the same age as him, was actually a 38-year-old man.

Harry was told he should never have assumed Paul was who he said he was. Harry is now very careful with the information he places on the internet and the people he speaks with online.

The police told Harry that if he wouldn’t tell a stranger in the street personal and private things about himself, then he should use the same concept with the internet, as people are not always who they say they are.

If you know about a child who is in immediate danger or risk,

Call your local emergency number or police.