Playstation scare

This story was first published in the Columbia Missourian on Oct 8, 2010.

COLUMBIA — The Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force wants to remind folks that they never really know whom they are talking to on the Internet.

Detectives with the Boone County Sheriff’s Department assigned to the task force and the Moberly Police Department concluded an investigation Monday of a man who posed as a Missouri law enforcement officer on the Internet, according to a task force news release.

The man contacted a 15-year-old boy in Moberly while the boy was playing an online game on a Sony PlayStation 3. He asked personal questions and included sexually suggestive conversation, according to the release. The man first posed as a 10-year-old girl, but when the boy refused to continue, said he was a “Missouri State Police” officer conducting an investigation.

Missouri does not have a Missouri State Police and police do not contact people over the Internet to seek personal information, the release stated.

The man was able to get the boy to tell him his father’s full name. The man also contacted at least one friend on the father’s MySpace friends list via email the next day, claiming to be a Missouri State Police Sex Crimes officer. In the e-mail, he wrote that the 15-year-old boy was being investigated as a suspect in a crimes-against-children case, the news release said.

Both the boy and the friend contacted the father separately about these events. This spurned the father to contact the Moberly Police Department, who in turn contacted the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force.

The joint investigations led to the identification of an Internet account in the northeast United States as the origin of the incident. Local law enforcement then initiated an investigation in the area where the suspect lived.

Detective Andy Anderson of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, who also directs the task force, said the only potential violation in the case, at least in Missouri, was the impersonation of a police officer. Local authorities, though, weren’t able to find enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges.

The Mid-Missourian Internet Crimes Task Force and Moberly Police Department are warning the public of the scam and advise people never to give personal information to strangers over the Internet.

“The whole purpose of this release is to remind parents and guardians that you never know who you are talking to over the Internet and that you have to be extremely vigilant,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the No. 1 goal of the task force was to get families, both parents and kids, together and talking about the safe use of technology. Moreover, the public should be wary that devices other than cell phones and computers might be used to defraud people and contact minors.

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