TARGET 8: Craigslist ads targeting local teens are "red flags"

3 months 2 weeks 3 days ago August 15, 2016 Aug 15, 2016 Monday, August 15 2016 Monday, August 15, 2016 1:33:00 PM CDT in Target 8
By: Stephanie Sierra, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - Jollene Kuo Hastings wanted to be a model since she was 17 years old, but remembers early in her career not every attempt to enter the industry felt safe.

Meet Jollene

"I remember looking at Craigslist for different freelance gigs," she said.

Until Hastings realized these ads weren't exactly what she had in mind.

"It said you had to come alone, like you had to be at least 18 and could not be accompanied by anybody because they didn't want to 'crowd the space'," she said.

"Well it turned out the space was at this man's house, he was not the photographer, he had no modeling background, no connections to an agency, he actually just wanted it for his personal use."

Hastings said he offered her $1,000 for an hour-long shoot.

"I was nervous," she said. "I remember him distinctly making sexual references that made me feel uncomfortable."

The online ads

The Target 8 Team investigated a series of provocative Craigslist ads, like the one Kuo Hastings came across, targeting young women in Columbia.

A KOMU 8 News reporter changed her identity to look into one of the ads and found the trend to be very similar. 

 

Law enforcement said that a number of the ads, like the ones shown above, are "red flags". 

"If you are a reputable brand, you wouldn't just post, 'amateur females wanted, and we're going to pay you over a grand,'" said Hastings. "They're making a mockery out of the modeling industry."

Craigslist is used by more than 60 million people in the U.S. each month. The site is most notably used for selling furniture or housing, but the site also has sections that seem to be selling something else.

The advertisements followed a similar trend, all indicating they are looking for female models in Columbia that must be: "cute, in great shape, toned, and 'must send pics'."

Boone County Sheriff and FBI response 

"From what I've seen, the ads are very enticing. They make you feel like you're going to be somebody," said Det. Tracy Perkins, Boone County Sheriff Department's Cyber Crimes Unit.

Perkins said it's important to realize that although many ads may say they're located in Columbia, they're usually not.

KOMU 8 News reached out the Kansas City's FBI Bureau that covers Columbia to talk about cyber security. The FBI refused to comment on specific sites or ads, but Special Agent (SSA) Chad John agrees certain Internet sites can be very enticing. 

SSA John indicated the first red flag is the amount of money that is offered in many of the ads.

"The $1,400 stands out, it's a significant amount of money," he said.

I asked Perkins, "What can you possibly be doing for that amount of money?" and she agreed it's often used as a form of enticement.

"What happens is they get dollar signs, easy dollar signs thinking 'I can model'," said Perkins. "The main indicators tell me, it could potentially be human trafficking, or potentially prostitution."

Our investigation

KOMU 8 News reached out to one of the email accounts under a fake name to see what the "modeling" consisted of.

The email account responded by saying they wanted full body photos: "So I do know what you're working with." The email subsequently admitted the possibility of nude photo and video shoots and offered to pay for all traveling expenses to New York City for the shoot.

"When you're talking to people on the Internet, it's not just somebody right here in Columbia. They may say they're from Columbia, but they're usually overseas," said Perkins.

KOMU 8 News was curious if this company would offer options locally, so we asked if the shoots could take place here in Columbia like the ads indicated. They responded by saying "We can work with you here. You would be met at a studio and use whatever props or makeup we have on hand."

Perkins said when cyber criminals change the course of the conversation, it's their attempt to make you feel comfortable to say anything you want to hear. This type of behavior is what's often referred as "grooming."

"Red flags" for other cyber crimes

The Cyber Crime Unit pointed out these crimes don't just start with email threads; even Skype can be a way to be lured in.

"What people don't realize is they can screen capture whatever they ask you to do, and once they convince you and you feel comfortable, you're basically done," Perkins said.

Other cases could be financial scams where the conversation leads to the requirement of paying for something up front, which could be followed by a fraudulent reimbursement check. Respondents could also risk having their identity stolen.

"What we typically see, is they subsequently sell it to others, so that information continues to be replicated out there," said SSA John.

Perkins said they could also be using it as a way to set up additional accounts to pretend to be you.

"So whether the cyber criminal uses that information today or uses that information 5 years from today, that information is still out there," said SSA John. "You can be continuously victimized."

Perkins said even though this activity happens everywhere, she said it's underreported in Boone County, and that's a problem.

"Modeling is a tough industry," said Kuo Hastings. "A lot of time people want to take short cuts, so if it seems to good to be true it usually is."

KOMU 8 News reached out to the recipient of the email account used in our investigation and Craigslist, Inc. for a comment and received no response.

Local law enforcement encourage victims to report any suspicious cyber crime activity to the FBI.

 

 

More News

Grid
List
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Authorities said a Kansas City man who stole a firearm from a homicide victim has been... More >>
4 minutes ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 2:01:43 PM CST in News
PARKVILLE (AP) - A campaign is underway to restore holiday decorations that were removed from trees along a suburban Kansas... More >>
9 minutes ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 1:56:25 PM CST in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — A suburban St. Louis school system has shed an unaccredited label that had forced it to... More >>
16 minutes ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 1:49:07 PM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY - On Friday, police identified one of the suspects in the October 31 homicide on Michigan Street. ... More >>
2 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 11:45:00 AM CST in News
BOONE COUNTY - Deputies arrested a man late Thursday night after he fled his van which then rolled into a... More >>
3 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 10:56:00 AM CST in News
CLAYTON (AP) — The son of former St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley has been sentenced to 23 years in... More >>
3 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 10:29:34 AM CST in News
COLUMBIA - A pedestrian suffered moderate injuries after being hit by a car on the 1400 block of Rangeline Street... More >>
4 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 9:27:00 AM CST in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Police are investigating the thefts of three Salvation Army fundraising Christmas kettles in the St. Louis... More >>
5 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 8:40:33 AM CST in News
WEBSTER GROVES (AP) — Webster University in suburban St. Louis is investigating after hundreds of fliers with racist and homophobic... More >>
5 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 8:18:10 AM CST in News
BELLEFONTAINE NEIGHBORS (AP) — One person is dead and another hospitalized after a shooting in north St. Louis County. ... More >>
5 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 8:07:49 AM CST in News
COLUMBIA - At least four people have been detained after police and SWAT team members raided a house in central... More >>
6 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 7:48:00 AM CST in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) Authorities have identified a man killed while fighting with a Kansas City auto shop owner for control... More >>
7 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 6:46:17 AM CST in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Authorities say a driver found dead in a vehicle after crashing on a Kansas City highway... More >>
7 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 6:20:26 AM CST in News
COLUMBIA – The Missouri Women’s Business Center will host an open talk regarding successes and business lessons Friday at noon.... More >>
10 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 3:40:00 AM CST in News
COLUMBIA - Missouri defensive end Charles Harris has played his last snap in the black and gold. The star junior... More >>
11 hours ago December 02, 2016 Dec 2, 2016 Friday, December 02 2016 Friday, December 02, 2016 2:29:00 AM CST in News
FULTON – In an attempt to raise more money for the Callaway County Salvation Army, the group and Fulton Parks... More >>
18 hours ago December 01, 2016 Dec 1, 2016 Thursday, December 01 2016 Thursday, December 01, 2016 7:33:00 PM CST in Continuous News
COLUMBIA - With the holiday season comes lights and decorations, and some people may be spending more on their energy... More >>
18 hours ago December 01, 2016 Dec 1, 2016 Thursday, December 01 2016 Thursday, December 01, 2016 7:19:00 PM CST in Top Stories
COLUMBIA -The city of Columbia is working with community partners to address the wide gap in quality of life in... More >>
19 hours ago December 01, 2016 Dec 1, 2016 Thursday, December 01 2016 Thursday, December 01, 2016 6:47:00 PM CST in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 47°
2pm 47°
3pm 48°
4pm 46°
5pm 43°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

2:00p
The Dr. Oz Show
3:00p
Dr. Phil
4:00p
Jeopardy!
2:00p
Judge Alex
2:30p
Judge Alex
3:00p
The Robert Irvine Show

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon
8:00p
Dateline NBC
7:00p
The Vampire Diaries
8:00p
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld