Crime

Child sextortion of girl at Fort Benning prompts warning to Columbus parents

How to keep your kids safe on the Internet

Public safety official speaks to parents about internet safety.
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Public safety official speaks to parents about internet safety.

With a new school year starting, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia has issued a warning to parents and educators about the growing cybercrime against children called sextortion.

Sextortion is a when someone coerces or entices a person to produce a sexually explicit image and send it over the internet. Then the predator often uses that image to extort the victim to produce more sexually explicit images under threat of sending the original image to the victim’s friends and parents, according to the U.S. Attorney’s news release.

The warning comes after a conviction in a Columbus area sextortion case.

Colby Ray Cochran, 24, of Oregon was sentenced in May to 210 months in federal prison for coercion and enticement of a minor child after posing as a teenager and sextorting a 15-year-old girl at Fort Benning.

Cochran admitted to interacting with other children online across the country, requesting nude photos from them and threatening to expose those images if they didn’t send more, according to the news release.

Making this crime more alarming, Cochran was on probation for a sex crime and was on the sex offender registry, prohibiting him from possessing and using internet-capable devices, when his most recent offense occurred.

The mother of the Fort Benning girl discovered the threats against her daughter and contacted law enforcement, the news release says.

“Sextortion is a rapidly growing, insidious cybercrime targeting children,” U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler said in the news release. “Parents are the first line of defense against these predators.”

The Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force suggests these ways for parents to help their children safely use the internet:

  • Teach your child to not friend or follow on social media anyone they don’t personally know.
  • Teach your child to not talk online to anyone they don’t personally know.
  • Know what your child is doing online. If your child has a social media account, you should learn how it works.

If you suspect your child is in trouble online, talk to your child, then report inappropriate or illegal contact to local law enforcement, the news release recommends. Parents also can contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at missingkids.com or 1-800-THE-LOST.

Learn more at thorn.org/sextortion and netsmartz.org.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.
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