The Frightening Truth About Chat Rooms

By: Karen Kostko
By: Karen Kostko

It started out as an innocent game, logging into a chat room and talking to peers. A local woman by the name of Samantha did just that, but the person on the other end wasn't one of her peers, he was a predator and Samantha turned out to be his victim of a computer crime.

"I was actually 16. I had told the person on the Internet that I was 17 cause I almost was 17," says Samantha. That is how her story begins.

Samantha went to a friend’s house to use the computer. She decided to log into a chat room, and that's when she met the predator.

"He lied and said he was 19, to me who was almost 17, I'm thinking this person could related to me but really he couldn't," she says.

Samantha's screen name was "sweetsamantha" and she started talking to "sexymalexxx." Samantha says she talked to him online for a little over a month. After she established an online connection with him, he started sending her pornographic pictures via e-mail. The pictures were very graphic, including nude men with nude little girls, performing sexual acts.

"I get these pictures on the email, very disturbing pictures," she said.

Samantha says after he started sending her the images, she became very uncomfortable. She says at one time, she was crying and was afraid to get in her car.

Eventually, Samantha became so disturbed that she reported her online communication to the police. She printed out the disturbing photos along with emails he sent her. Authorities were able to track him down within months of Samantha's report. The so-called 19-year-old turned out to be in his thirties and was a resident of Lacrosse WI.

Charges were eventually filed against Samantha's online predator. He served about three years in prison and is now registered as a sex offender.

Samantha's incident happened six years ago, and since then she has learned to move on.

"It's outta my life now I don't really dwell on it anymore," she says.

Samantha's story is just one of thousands across the country. Luckily her predator was caught and put behind bars. For other online victims, that's not always the case. In California, a 13-year-old girl was murdered by a married man she met on the Internet. In the last four years, there have been more than 300 computer crime cases in Wisconsin.

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