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Parents warned about online predators after Bellingham arrest

SEATTLE – Police say a Bellingham man contacted at least two underage girls online and offered them money for nude photographs of themselves.  The man found both victims through Facebook, and then started texting them.

Ferndale police and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office arrested Anthony Duran of Bellingham this week for commercial sexual abuse of a minor.

facebookIn one case, he contacted a 14-year-old and offered to pay her for “skin photos.” In the other, he left envelopes of money for a 16-year-old girl who then sent nude photos of herself via text.

“As an officer, I’m very concerned about these crimes,” Aaron Snell of the Everett Police Department said Thursday. “Our children are vulnerable and we have a responsibility to help protect our children.”

Snell said the problem with the Internet is we can’t see the predators who may be after our children. That’s why he says it’s important for parents to talk to their kids about what can happen with strangers on social media.

“Parents need to be open and honest with their teens, they need to tell them about the dangers that are out there. Sometimes we don’t think our teens listen to us, but they do.”

In the Ferndale case, the mom of the victim noticed suspicious texts on her daughter’s phone and she reported it to police.  Internet safety expert Linda Criddle says parents should be keeping an eye on who their kids are communicating with.

“While I don’t believe parents should be snooping on the phones of teens, I do think it’s appropriate to say, we will sit down and view the content of your phone,” she says. “Teens who know there’s a spot-check at any time are a little more cautious about what they do.”

Dr. Megan Moreno wrote a book about teens and Facebook. She suggests having a computer in a public area of the house, and teaching your kids how to navigate the Internet responsibly.

“I think we can take lessons from drivers licensing to think when you first put your child in a car, you’re not putting them alone, you’re sitting with them.”

“It’s not out of the question to check their history, see that the sites they’re going to are appropriate and the texts they’re sending are appropriate,” says Snell. “There’s legal ramifications as well as the chance our children are going to run into danger, if we don’t become involved with our children.”

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