Nanaimo Daily News

Cop poses as teenager on Facebook

Students stunned to learn their 'friend' is a fake; part of educational program

Danielle Bell, Daily News

Published: Sunday, March 06, 2011

The photos, favourite music and hobbies on this online profile of a young teenager are commonplace in the world of Facebook.

The teen posts updates and messages in this popular online social networking site to dozens of friends, who sometimes text over cellphones to pass on plans.

Dozens of students in the Nanaimo-area learned this week just how easy this type of information could fall into the wrong hands when DarrenLaur, with Personal Protection Systems Inc., introduced himself as this young teenager.

Cedar Secondary School students, from left, Carolyne Springford, Paige Spoor and Matthew Smith were suprised to find out how easy it is to glean information from Facebook.

Laur, 46, who is also a Victoria police staff sergeant, teaches  Internet safety in a way that strikes an emotional chord with young people, who are often stunned to find out the teen, online for more than a year, does not exist.

The pictures are purchased and information gleaned from othe sources, including teens.

The Nanaimo Daily News is not revealing specific details that could identify the fake profile, which is used for educational purposes.

But Laur warns the way he established a rapport, cultivated trust and became privy to cellphone numbers, workplaces, schedules - even whether people were home or not - is the same way criminals can.

He uses this imaginary persona to demonstrate to kids how easily the criminal element could use information for a more sinister purpose: from online predators to those planning robberies or identity theft.

"If you can build a rapport with them it is very easy for them to trust you," said Laur. "Bad creepers are doing it for other reasons. But they're doing it exactly the way I am."

Cellphone technology could also allow Laur to track a location within 10 metres, so a series of pictures inside a house could indicate where someone lives.

At Cedar Community Secondary School where Laur held a presentation last week, 30 students had befriended the teen who turned out to be him. One even asked out the teen on a date.

"We were like, 'oh my God,'" said Paige Spoor, 15. "After that I made (my online profile) very secure."

Matthew Smith, 15, only recently joined Facebook.

"You think you're putting on harmless information and bam, he knows everything about you," said Smith.

The presentation made fellow student Carolyne Springford, 17, contemplate how easy it could be to be fooled by someone.

"It's scary," said Springford. "It's showing us how easy people can get information. As soon as I heard that, I went home and changed (my Facebook page)."

Laur also speaks to kids about how their digital footprint - what they leave behind - could come back to haunt them as they apply for jobs or scholarships.

Laur, who also teaches parents, cautions people to limit their online information and on networks accept only people they have met face-to-face.

"It's the age we're in," said Cedar principal Susann Young. "We need to know a lot more about that and so do parents."

                     © Personal Protection Systems Inc 2014