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Special Report: Targeted Online

Smart phones and the internet make our life easier. And they also make it easier for crooks to turn you into their victim.
Smart phones and the internet make our life easier. And they also make it easier for crooks to turn you into their victim.

In the past few months, thieves have used websites to set up their victims. People are getting robbed and injured.

CBS47s Kathryn Herr shows you how criminals are turning to technology more and more to commit their crimes.

Crooks are always looking for a new way to victimize people... and to support their drug habit or other illegal endeavors. That means you need to adapt as well, and be wary of where the criminals are searching for opportunities.

Police in the Central Valley are seeing more crooks using technology to help commit their crimes. Sgt. David Ramsey with the Fresno Police Department said, "It definitely appears that the criminals are taking advantage of the new technology and the availability of smart-phones by setting up the victims." 

Sgt. Ramsey is investigating a robbery and carjacking that started with the escort site MyRedBook.com. The victim set up a date with a woman on the website. "They had met two weeks prior on web page and had arranged to meet," said Ramsey.

The victim went to the woman's house in Central Fresno. When he tried to leave, he was attacked by two teens who pistol whipped him and took his car. "The victim could have been seriously injured and not just had his property taken," said Sgt.Timothy Tietjen of Fresno Police Department's Career Criminal Auto Theft Team.

The two teens were arrested but the woman who set up the victim still has not been caught. 

It's not the first time MyRedBook.com has been used by thieves. In January, Clovis police broke up a crime ring that was luring men to an apartment near Shaw and Villa and robbed them. Women posted ads on MyRedBook and BackPage.com. Police say when the customers showed up to meet an escort, they were met instead by Bobby Peele and Javontae Johnson who robbed them at gunpoint.

But criminals aren't the only ones who know the internet is helpful in committing crimes. Police also know... and they use it to help fight crime. 

The Madera Police Department and the FBI just completed a prostitution sting using the online websites where prostitute advertise their services. Sgt. Matt Wiles with the Madera Police Department said, "What we're doing is going to some of the websites that are available to us, to the prostitutes and to the pimps as well and we went ahead and tried to set some of those up."

The officers posed as clients and met prostitutes at a local hotel. It was their first sting like this and it was successful. Nine people were arrested for prostitution and 20-year-old Keshaun Robinson was arrested for pimping. Police say Robinson is on felony probation for armed robbery. They also seized a sawed off rifle from his car.

Madera police will continue to use the internet to track down criminals. "We use that to search around. As much as they look at these we quite frankly have a lot more resources than do they. And we can get into things that they can't," said Sgt. Wiles.

Even something as simple as renting a movie can make you a victim of these technology savvy crooks. Customers of Redbox video kiosks in Fresno discovered that when they ended up with pieces of paper in their cases instead of DVDs.

The crooks photocopied the bar code for the movie or game to fool the kiosk. The DVD's ended up for sale on Craigslist. Redbox gave the cheated customers.

Be careful when you use online sites like Craigslist. When meeting a potential buyer or seller in person that you only met online, arrange to meet in a very public place. Never go alone and let others know where you are going and what time you will be back.

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