Facebook-prowling predator arrested after mother helps police

A mother from Colonie, New York, has helped police to bust a sex offender trying to set up a sexual encounter with her young daughter.

While checking the Facebook activity of her daughter, who police say was “under 15 years old”, she came across messages sent by an unknown older man. This set alarm bells ringing in her mind.

She noticed that the messages were innocuous at first but soon developed sexual overtones, so she did some digging of her own. She found that the man interacting with her daughter was actually using his real name and was a convicted sex offender, Colonie Police Lt. Robert Winn said.

The man was Dennis Williams, a 33-year-old who had previously been convicted of trying to distribute indecent material to a minor. The mother called police, and investigators posing as the daughter set up a meeting with Williams at a local shopping center.

When Williams arrived, he found police waiting for him, and was promptly arrested.

Lt. Winn said that Williams had attempted to befriended hundreds of other girls.

That day he sent the message to her, he sent the same message to hundreds of other girls, and they were friends of hers or friends of friends, and that’s how he got her name.

This arrest throws the spotlight on parents and what they can do to protect their children from such predators.

A recent survey of parents of teenagers showed that many parents monitor their kids’ online activities to some extent, with 61% saying they’ve checked which websites their teen visits, 56% have friended or followed their teen on social media platform and 48% have looked through their teen’s phone call records or text messages.

Of course, you also need to educate your kids on how to stay safe online.

Here are some tips you can give them:

  1. Lock down your social media accounts: make sure you keep your profiles on sites such as Facebook or Instagram private.
  2. Don’t accept friend requests from strangers. Only talk to people on social media that you already know, like and trust.
  3. Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with the whole world seeing. Once something is on the internet, it’s hard to take it back.
  4. Don’t give your address out and do not agree to a meet a person in real life who you’ve met online.
  5. Set a password lock on your phone or any other device you use, and make sure it locks automatically when you aren’t using it.
  6. Don’t click on suspicious links. If you receive a message from a friend that doesn’t immediately seem like something your friend would have sent, double check with them in person.
  7. Put some effort into your passwords. Create proper passwords for each online account you have and don’t share them with anyone – not even your best friend.
  8. Speak up if you see something upsetting, dangerous, or dishonest. Tell a parent or a teacher.

Police said that the girl’s mother was critical to making an arrest in this case.

As a parent, it’s your job to make sure your kids are using the internet safely, so make sure you’re doing everything you can.

Image of girl courtesy of Ttatty / Shutterstock.com.