Investigator: Many Fake Identities To Remain on Myspace Despite Filter - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/12/06-Longview

Investigator: Many Fake Identities To Remain on Myspace Despite Filter

Of the more than 100 million users on Myspace.com, we found several East Texas sex offenders with profiles on the site.  Some had been told to stay off the Internet as a condition of probation.  Three were arrested for their alleged use.

Now, Myspace says they will run names of sex offenders through their site, removing the accounts if they're found.   But KLTV spoke with an investigator and a grandmother.  Both say it's often children themselves who give predators all the information they need.

The men arrested during our KLTV investigation were using their real names on Myspace

"There's really no check-and-balance system to verify they're not who they say they are," says Gregg County community supervision investigator Rex Fennell.   In other words, there's no way to know how many predators are lurking.   And anyone can use a fake name.

"A lot of guys are coy -- they'll stay mobile. They'll use laptops, they'll use blackberries, and they'll use things that won't pin them down to a particular address," he says.

Nearly two-thirds of sex offenders in Gregg County are completely free to use Myspace.  They're done with probation and parole.  

"They can be on the Internet, they can chat with your son or your daughter.  Chatting with a teenager -- chatting with someone under the age of 17 is not illegal.  Making an inappropriate advance is," Fennell says.

"Your first instinct is 'Who do I call?'" says mother and grandmother Glenda Anderson.

She started looking after children in her care mentioned Myspace.

"In just one little push of enter, the information and the links [appeared.]  It's the links that got me," she says.

They are links that are lewd, and some pictures are suggestive.  Then she said she found 10 and 11-year-old neighborhood children on Myspace. 

The site's minimum age is 14.  She says if children can lie about themselves, why not sex offenders.

"I believe we have a lot of rights, but I think they have been abused something terrible," Anderson says.

"They don't call it the World Wide Web for nothing, it's wide open," Fennell adds.

Do kids pay attention? 

"They'll slip up and put a photo of themselves in a school uniform, like a cheerleader uniform or a band uniform.  A person can easily identify that with 'this person goes to this school and they're a cheerleader,'" Fennell says. 

Anyone lurking online can then know where that child will be and when.

Glenda Anderson says when her grandkids visit, there are strict limits online.  And all parents should follow her lead.

"If necessary, privileges would be taken and computers would be out of the house," she warns.

Myspace rules require all users to enter correct information about themselves, but there is no double-check -- no using a credit card or driver's license to confirm someone's identity.  The site does say if you spot someone misrepresenting themselves, or a child online under the age of 14, you can contact them and they'll remove the profile.

Morgan Palmer, Reporting morganpalmer@kltv.com

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