The Grooming Process and Building Rapport
Many internet predators, especially sexual predators, will engage in a grooming process. The primary goal of the grooming process is to build rapport and make the potential target feel comfortable with him in hopes that you will want to meet him face-to-face at some later time. It is not uncommon that once a potential target has been identified, the predator will often play the waiting game, and work long periods of time in order to build rapport.
Although hard to identify, they can be anyone. The internet predator will often follow a standardized grooming process that looks similar to the following:
- The predator will often “Stealth,” “Chicken Hawk,” or “Creep” chat rooms and social networks to gain information on a potential target, through information contained in the target’s profile and actual chat room text messaging content.
- Once the predator has gained the information needed to build rapport with their intended target, they will initiate contact in the chat room or social network.
- At some point in the chat room interaction, the predator will ask their target to P2P (person to person chat), “DM” (direct message). or “whisper.” Why? Because the predator wants to cut their prey from the herd for privacy.
- Once the predator and target have whispered for a while, the predator will often ask the target to engage in a conventional e-mail relationship, which will allow for a longer and more private relationship without having to log into a chat room, thus further increasing anonymity. It is also at this point that the predator will request that you tell no one about your interaction with them.
- Often, after a prolonged e-mail relationship, the predator will now request a conventional phone conversation, again to build rapport, with the ultimate goal of having a private face-to-face meeting with you.
- If the goal is not a face-to-face meet, but rather inappropriate sexual behavior online (often known as cybersex or sexting via phone), the predator will very slowly break down sexual barriers.
- It is not uncommon that the predator will “test the waters” by introducing sexual language and content into conversations.
- As their target become desensitized to this sexual language, they may start to send sexual pictures/video (sometimes of them) based upon an incremental process.
- Once their target is hooked, and they sense that their target is withdrawing from a conversation, they may start to use threats (cyberbullying) such as sending pictures, video, and text messaging that you were involved in with him, to parents and friends.
Often during the grooming process, the predator will use a variety of rapport “lures” to hook their intended prey. Some of these lures include:
- “Let’s go P2P, DM or Whisper me.” Here, they want no witnesses.
- “Where’s your computer in your house?” Here, they want to know if parents are potentially watching.
- “Who are your favorite band, movie, and designer?” Here, information obtained can assist in building rapport based upon similar interests.
- “I know someone who can get you a modeling job.” This is an ego-boosting lure their goal is to make you feel special.
- “I know a fast way that you can earn some money.” Usually through webcam pornography that the predator will say offers some anonymity. Just have a look at how many voyeur sites are now available online.
- “You seem so sad; tell me what’s happening in your life.” The sympathy lure. They are good at the “listening game.”
- “What’s your phone number?” This usually happens later in the grooming process, but once obtained, can reveal where you are located and in some cases, using internet 411 technology, can reveal your actual address.
- “If you do not do what I ask, I will tell your parents, or post your picture(s) in a blog, webcam directory, or file-sharing network.” Classic threat lure.
- “You are the love of my life.” Sure you are!!!
In May 2010, Ryan Earl McCann, 20, was convicted and given an eight year prison sentence in the Province of Ontario for socially engineering 22 young women, some as young as 14 years, for luring/grooming them to perform demeaning sexual acts online under the threat of physical violence or the public on-line release of chat/video that the youth had participated in with him. McCann would initially chat (groom) with his victims on Facebook (after being invited in as a friend) or in MSN Messenger. McCann would have these young women remove their clothing, sexually touch themselves and perform simulate sex acts all under duress. McCann was known to the courts and the media by “The Webcam Puppeteer,” because of his ability to socially engineer his victims, and make them do what he wanted them to do sexually in front of their webcam for himself and others to see.
One of the best sites on the internet that describes who these sexual predators are, and how they hunt their prey, can be found at www.perverted-justice.com. Perverted Justice has become very well known, due to their work with Dateline NBC, and their investigative series called “To Catch a Predator.” Together, Perverted Justice and Dateline set up several undercover stings in a number of US states, where in cooperation with law enforcement, they assisted in the arrest of over 180 men who wanted to meet and have sex with a child under the age of 14 years old. Visit Perverted Justice’s web site, it is a true learning experience for every family member. Digital Food For Thought Darren Laur AKA #thewhitehatter