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

2 years 2 months 4 weeks ago Monday, August 15 2016 Aug 15, 2016 Monday, August 15, 2016 1:33:00 PM CDT August 15, 2016 in Target 8
By: Stephanie Sierra, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

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
BALTIMORE - Jefferson City Bishop Shawn McKnight responded to the U.S. Catholic bishops abruptly postponing plans Monday to vote on... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 7:48:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY – The slowest mode of transportation is making its way up and down the Missouri River progressively. ... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 7:07:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in Top Stories
COLUMBIA - The MU School of Medicine partnered with Columbia-based Global First Responder to provide health care services to patients... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 7:07:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in News
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 6:37:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in Weather
COLUMBIA - After years of raising funds, advocates of Columbia's black community now have enough money to finish a trail... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 6:00:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mike Parson will announce his appointment for the next Missouri Attorney General Tuesday morning, according to... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 4:36:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Board of Education says it will not comment on parents' concerns for a new middle school... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 4:30:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Board of Education will request to change city limits at Monday night's board meeting to include... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 2:34:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Works says it's ready for a snowy winter. Even with the early snowfall, the department... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 2:06:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - As snowy, slushy conditions cover mid-Missouri, schools, businesses and groups are changing their plans for the afternoon and... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 2:04:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- Stan Lee, the colorful Marvel Comics patriarch who helped usher in a new era of superhero storytelling --... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 2:02:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in News
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. (AP) — A convicted felon has been charged with abducting two Christian college students and forcing them... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 1:44:38 PM CST November 12, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department announced it will be merging its community outreach unit and downtown unit into one... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 12:35:00 PM CST November 12, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS - A former assistant attorney general announced his campaign for Missouri Attorney General Monday morning. In a... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 10:12:00 AM CST November 12, 2018 in News
BISMARCK (AP) — Authorities are investigating a woman's death in southeast Missouri as a homicide. KFVS-TV reports that the... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 8:47:04 AM CST November 12, 2018 in News
MORGAN COUNTY - A man accused of moving the dismembered body of his friend's common law wife pleaded guilty to... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 8:16:00 AM CST November 12, 2018 in News
OSAGE COUNTY - Osage County law enforcement took a fugitive from Gasconade County into custody Sunday. Sheriff's deputies got... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 12 2018 Nov 12, 2018 Monday, November 12, 2018 7:44:00 AM CST November 12, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA (Final update at 10 p.m.) - Most areas have received 1" to 3" of snowfall accumulation. Records were set... More >>
2 days ago Sunday, November 11 2018 Nov 11, 2018 Sunday, November 11, 2018 7:06:00 PM CST November 11, 2018 in Weather
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 21°
9pm 23°
10pm 22°
11pm 21°
12am 20°