Special Report: Ripped off the Web - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Special Report: Ripped off the Web

Chloe Pestana Chloe Pestana
Tom Simon Tom Simon
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

In this day and age of online sharing, it's not uncommon to see pictures of young kids or even babies on Facebook. In fact, according to a recent study, by the age of two, 92 percent of all children in the U.S. already have an online presence because of all those photos uploaded by their proud parents, relatives or family friends.

A Kailua mom wants parents to think twice about what they share online after her priceless photos ended up in the wrong hands.

Chloe Pestana is a proud mom and likes to share her children's accomplishments with her friends on Facebook.

"It's a social norm now for everybody to be on Facebook," said Pestana.

Alarms went off after she got a strange friend request from a man she didn't know.

She clicked on his page and saw images of young children.

"He had pictures of little girls in underwear and he had pictures of boys dressed up in underwear and bras," said Pestana.

She got an even bigger shock.

"I saw a picture of my daughter! How is he getting pictures of my daughter?"

There she was, Chloe's pride and joy, in a stranger's album titled "Children in Bikinis".

"400 pictures of little girls under 4 in bikinis & some of them were kind of scandalous. I want to strangle the guy because you know, that's your kids, that's your babies."

Fear set in as she scanned his album to see if there were any more photos of her daughter. Her eyes zeroed in on another young, innocent face.

"I saw my friend's daughter on there and I called her and said you know, your daughter is on here and she freaked out. So, I called the FBI and they said it happens a lot. They said it happens so frequently, they'll take my name and number," said Pestana.

Hard to believe, Chloe's story is not uncommon.

The FBI says, "It's an unfortunate fact of life that pedophiles are everywhere online."

Digital photos can be copied instantly and easily with the click of the mouse and there's a lot to choose from with more than 8 million users on photo sharing sites like Instagram and over a billion users on Facebook.

Hawaii FBI agent and spokesman Tom Simon says Chloe and other parents have every right to feel violated.

"Anytime images of children from our community are used in an exploitive manner, that's very concerning to us," said Simon.  "However, we need to draw the line between what's a crime and what's terrible behavior. Unless images that are being posted on the internet and re-posted by creeps and perverts are clearly pornographic in nature, it's just not a federal crime."

So what should concerned parents do?

Here are some tips:

Be careful what you post online and assume that any picture you post could be spread widely beyond your control. Change your Facebook settings to private.

Don't tag photos listing your child's full name or photos of other children without their parent's permission... or don't post any photos of your children online at all because once they're out there, they're almost impossible to get back.

After having this happen to her and having her Facebook settings on private, the decision for Chloe was easy.

"I deleted it because I don't feel it's safe even if you set all the security measures."

FBI agent Tom Simon also reminds parents that Facebook has its own staff who polices the social networking site. Parents who feel photos of their children are being exploited, should contact Facebook and make a complaint. 

The FBI also maintains an Internet Crime Complaint Center. Go to www.fbi.gov for a link.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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