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People must beware of their online-only, so-called friends Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 12, 2013 at 05:01 PM

Few people are more opportunistic than sex offenders and predators, and social media has given them more options than they never had before. It's a nightmare for law enforcement trying to track them and provides one more example that people need to know who they're talking to online.

A recent case reported in The Tampa Tribune tells of 40-year-old woman who met a sex offender online and moved to Clearwater to be with him.

The woman's mother was mortified to learn about the man, who used aliases on all kinds of social media sites. He's in jail awaiting trial.

Some sites, such as Facebook, try to prevent sex offenders from having accounts, but all it takes is for one to use a fake name with an unregistered email address and it's impossible to know. Creating different online identities is incredibly easy.

Florida sex offenders are supposed to provide law enforcement with their email addresses and screen names before using them online, according to the story.

Even if their cover is blown, these offenders can easily open a different account using another name and email account. It's almost impossible for law enforcement to keep up them when there are so many social media sites and chat areas.

The Internet has been a boon to sex offenders. Now they can search for victims anonymously while sitting in a darkened basement. You can pretend to be anyone — and they do. Too many people of all ages fall for it these days.

Even a Heisman Trophy candidate football star fell for a fake online relationship, not having any idea who he really was talking to on the Web.

For some, it's a hobby or game. For sex offenders, it's even more sinister.

People must be aware that bad people are out there on the Internet, tricking people for various reasons. It pays to be skeptical about who you're talking with if you've never met them. It could save your life, in fact.