Online predators: Recent cases raise timely concerns

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Recent news stories should give any parent pause.

Thirty-five-year-old Jose Luis Zamora-Campos arrested, charged with attempting to lure a 13-year-old girl for sex.

Fifty-nine-year-old Steven Streit sentenced to 12 and a half years in federal prison and a lifetime of supervised release for enticing a 12-year-old girl to send sexually explicit videos of herself to someone she believed was a 15-year-old boy.

The tools being used these days--social media platforms like Snapchat--are relatively new. The tactics are not.

"Most of the time it's not overt right from the beginning," says Washoe County School District Police Chief Jason Trevino."It's developing that friendship, trying to learn all the ins and outs they can about that person so they can exploit those things to get ultimately what they want out of that relationship."

Truth is, the predators have always been out there. Social media has just made things easier. That means parents need to be more alert and prepared.

"We have to teach our kids how to be safe. Teach them how to cross the street. Don't talk with strangers," says Roger Bahten, the district's counseling specialist. "We have to teach them to be safe online."

"You have to be aware of what your kids are on," says Sheriff Darin Balaam. "So I always encourage them to know what social sites they're on."

Trevino says some parents think they're being vigilant.

"I often talk with parents. I ask them if they are on top of their students' phones. And they say 'Oh, absolutely I check their texts once or twice a week.' And I say 'Well what about Snapchat. What about their Instagram messaging?' And they look at me with that blank look. They have no idea they can also message through those apps."

Bahten says there are signs of trouble to watch for.

"They want more privacy. They're not telling you things that they used to. They're being kind of secretive. Hiding things from you."

And, if you learn your child may have been contacted by a predator, don't handle it by yourself.

"Call us," Balaam says. "Because if they've done that, obviously a lot of times, these predators, that's not the only victim they have. They're out there all the time preying upon multiple victims and we want to identify them and go after them so they don't victimized our young children."