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Online Predators Are Getting Smarter, and It's Incredibly Scary

A 10-year-old girl in Plano, Texas, was lucky to escape an online predator on a gaming app. That's right, sex predators are on gaming apps.

Twelve-year-old "Ben" approached Olivia Stribley on the popular game "Minecraft." After she added him to her "friends" list, they exchanged phone numbers and began texting.

They talked for weeks, chatting about hugs and kisses, and being boyfriend and girlfriend. "Ben" tried to convince Olivia to send him nude photos of herself, saying that he would send them as well. Olivia was uncomfortable with the request, and her mother noticed her daughter's unease and extreme possessiveness of her phone.

"She was doing what most people do when they've got something to hide," Jessica Stribley told local Dallas station WFAA.

Stribley decided to do a little investigating and looked at her daughter's messages after she had gone to sleep.

"When I saw the conversation about sending pictures, I slammed the phone down, and it took me another hour to be able to read everything on the phone," Stribley told WFAA.

She pretended to be her daughter, texting "Ben" and convincing him to send nude photos of himself.

"I said, 'My mom's asleep. Send me a picture,'" Jessica Stribley told WFAA. "He said, 'Well, if I take a picture of every inch of my body, will you do the same?' And I said, 'Yes, but I'm running out of time.' He sent three within 30 seconds."

Stribley Googled "Ben's" number and paid for a reverse number search. The number belonged to a man living out of state, who was a white-collar professional, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Stribley informed her ex-husband, Dallas police officer Steve Stribley, about their daughter's close call. Steve was understandably disturbed by the situation.

"In my career, I hunt people down who do bad things," Steve Stribley told WFAA. "I'm very aggressive and protective of people that are vulnerable, so I don't like the idea that on a child's game — where you're just building blocks, and building buildings, and things like that — that a grown man would try to reach out to a preteen child."

The Stribleys have turned over Olivia's phone to the police, who have permission to pretend to be Olivia and continue to text "Ben." No arrests have been made, and the investigation is ongoing.

Steve Stribley has put parental controls on Olivia's games, and she is no longer allowed to play against real people. He is closely monitoring his daughter's online interactions, which is one of the suggestions of cyber crime expert Tyler Cohen Wood.

"It really is the 'don't take candy from strangers,' 'don't go into some random stranger's car,' just in the cyber domain," Cohen Wood told WFAA. "The predators are finding new ways of getting to children. They're just looking for new ways, because they think the parents are probably monitoring social media, so I'm not going to use social media, but they're probably not monitoring the game."

Image via Twenty20/peisie

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