Justin Bieber imposter jailed after tricking children into stripping in front of webcam

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order

Robert HunterRobert Hunter, a 35-year-old man from Middlesbrough, UK, is now serving a 14-year sentence for abusing girls and boys as young as 9 from across Europe, Asia, Canada and the US via Facebook and other sites, Skype, and MSN, according to The Guardian.

Beyond posing as teenage heart-throb Justin Bieber, between 2010 and 2012, Hunter used a number of online aliases, hiding behind photos of teenage boys and pretending to be a teenager himself, The Guardian quoted prosecutor Richard Bennett as saying:

On each occasion he was able to disguise his true age and identity by the clever use of images of young boys or by pretending that his computer wasn't working properly.
As a further demonstration of the naivete and innocence of his victims, he was also able to persuade some that he was the music artist Justin Bieber.
He did this in order to dupe and encourage these young girls to strip on webcams and perform sex acts for him.

He went after both genders. Posing as Bieber, he convinced girls that he wanted to be their boyfriend.

Hunter also posed as a teenage girl in order to convince schoolboys to perform sex acts on camera. He then used those images to lure more girls, the prosecutor said.

Hunter blackmailed some victims into agreeing to his demands by threatening to make the videos he had already made of them public.

According to the BBC, Hunter was caught after a girl from Tasmania told police of her victimization.

Hunter was apprehended in December 2011 after police used Interpol to trace his victims.

Before he was caught, one victim, a 12-year-old girl, slashed her arms after Hunter posted indecent photos of her on Facebook, along with her address and phone number, the BBC reports.

The judge, Peter Bowers, called it possibly the worst case of internet child sex abuse he had heard.

The BBC quoted Justice Bowers:

It represents callous, almost sadistic exploitation over a number of years preying on girls' naivety who were undermined by their own behaviour.

Hunter pleaded guilty at Teesside Crown Court to 15 charges of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and 14 of making indecent photos.

What can be done to protect children from predators like Hunter?

Unfortunately, it's an uphill battle.

In December 2012, 48 countries joined forces to launch the most expansive fight ever against the spread of online child sex abuse.

At the time, current estimates put the number of online photos of sexually abused and exploited children at more than 1 million. Every year, that number grows by 50,000 new images, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

It's a laudable effort, but we can't leave it up to law enforcement.

One of the goals of the alliance is to educate children about online risks, including how paedophiles coax images out of unsuspecting children or extort them from blackmailed children.

We all can, and must, do that. We can educate children about the dangers online and teach them to not trust someone just because they say they're the same age or a celebrity.

If you have thoughts on the best way to teach children how to stay safe, please share them in the comments below.

Thanks in advance.

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18 Responses to Justin Bieber imposter jailed after tricking children into stripping in front of webcam

  1. The first step in preventing this is being a parent. Tell your kids what they are allowed and not allowed to be on. Have their social media passwords and check it regularly. Also, have the computer that they use in the living room and not in their bed room. Also, get techy with it. Disable the web cam, give your child standard user rights, and impose parental controls and web filtering.

  2. mike · 750 days ago

    How about teaching them, that never in a million years that a celebrity is ever going to contact them out of the blue claiming to want to be their boyfriend/girlfriend?

  3. A mother · 750 days ago

    Simple: disable your children's Internet access. If they want to be online, sit beside them.

  4. Wendy · 750 days ago

    I think one step parents could take to prevent their children from engaging in risky/dangerous behavior is to not let them have a computer in their room! Put it in a common area of the home, where there's no expectation of privacy. That still leaves them unmonitored if no one's home, but it's at least a step. (My 16 year old has her computer in the living room right next to mine, with strict parental controls and no webcam. We're also evil parents and she doesn't have a smartphone.)

    • Lisa Vaas · 749 days ago

      Wendy, if you're evil parents, I'm in love with evil parents. Thanks for the input.

    • This is actually a good idea not just for children, but for everyone. The best way to remember that there's no expectation of privacy on the internet is to place your access to the internet in a location where there's no expectation of privacy offline. This way, our natural behaviours and thought processes kick in, guarding our online actions for us.

      Of course, the problem with this is that many people, including children, have smartphones now, which can be taken anywhere, public or private. Monitoring the family computer is no longer enough.

    • Guest · 748 days ago

      Disable the web cam or (better yet) have no web cam at all, yes. But can you also disable or (better yet) eliminate the microphone, too?

  5. kokoronagomu · 750 days ago

    as a parent i monitored my children as the computer was in the family room. i would also show them news stories like this and explain that people on the internet aren't necessarily who or what they claim to be. i had always explained the schemes used by advertisers to lure children into begging their families to by worthless junk and toxic food and other ways that children can be taken advantage of. parents need to be involved in their children's, they aren't able to raise or protect themselves.

  6. John · 750 days ago

    It is harder to monitor your child's on-line activity now that almost all teenagers have smart phones. Parents have to do a better job at ensuring they are monitoring what their children are doing on-line. They must also educate their children that not everything on the internet is as it seems to be and as others have stated, a celeb won't contact you out of the blue wanting to be your friend.

  7. Freida Gray · 749 days ago

    Considering that adults have been subject to similar types of scams, how hard would it be to develop a webcam that can only be turned on by a button/switch instead of software? Computers currently have software that lets you switch them off using software,but you have to physical push a button to get them back on.Why can't webcams be the same?

    • Lisa Vaas · 749 days ago

      Perhaps we need to attach age limits to webcam usage. If I were a parent, I think I'd research laptops that lack webcams entirely. As far as smartphones go, they don't strike me as a necessity for children. But again, I'm not a parent, and I don't have first-hand familiarity with whatever pressures parents are up against when it comes to granting children access to the technology that their peers enjoy.

    • Bedridden Abdul Al Barten · 749 days ago

      I have a pocket handkerchief over all our the web cams. This is just in case the multi layered security fails.

      • Topi · 747 days ago

        Great Idea. I use a sticky note just cut to fit the eye of the cam.

  8. Ed Vais · 749 days ago

    With the British justice system, he'll do 6 months, in a cushy prison with cable telly and food to order.

    • Richard · 749 days ago

      When can we expect to see your Daily Mail column on this subject?

      The chances of anyone sentenced to 14 years being let out after six months, let alone a dangerous predator like this, are non-existent.

      And even if we believed the traditional "cushy cell / cable telly / food to order" mantra, his fellow prisoners are unlikely to let him "enjoy" his captivity.

  9. Topi · 747 days ago

    Every computer has child restrictions....USE THEM!

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.