3 On Your Side Investigates: False Alarms - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

3 On Your Side Investigates: False Alarms

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Social media has given many people an avenue to vent concern, frustration or even outrage. For others, it has become a powerful avenue to exploit, threaten and commit other crimes. 

Can you unknowingly assist criminals hiding behind a keyboard or cellphone or help them spread False Alarms?

3 On Your Side Investigates what you need to know to keep yourself and your kids out of the line of fire.

From Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Snapchat, social media has changed the way we interact with one another, but it's also meant big changes for law enforcement and the way they solve crimes. 

The false alarms can mean the difference in life, death or jail time.

We talked with Jay Houston the Cyber Crime Director with the State Attorney General’s Office.

“Where we may have an investigation, where we may need to look at a suspect, they usually have a Facebook page, or usually have an Instagram page and we’re able to find them online, find additional information about that specific person," said Jay Houston, Cyber Crime Director with the State Attorney General's Office. "Where there is a con to that side of it is when people have, for example, a school threat. When people are sharing this information repeatedly over and over and over again, and we cannot find the initial source of it.”

Social media also helps law enforcement get the word out quickly about wanted criminals or missing children.

A recent case involved a viral child porn video. and many people in the state shared the video hoping to catch the predator involved, but what so many of them didn’t realize is they were breaking the law and making it harder to track down the suspect.

READ MORE: New charges announced in multi-state child sex abuse case

“We have to go through every one of those and look at it and do our investigation, which is backlogging now our investigation of true child predators out there who are actually seeking children online,” explained Houston.

Another heartbreaking example of false alarms involves the Kingston Frazier case. 

READ MORE: Six-year-old shot and killed inside mother's stolen car

Social media posts blamed and attacked the 6-year-old’s mother when he was found shot to death inside her stolen car. The rumors became so vicious and widespread, Madison and Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest responded.

“I do want to say the mother was not involved in this case," said Guest. "There have been various stories on social media that have said she may have had some sort of involvement, some sort of role in the death of Kingston. We see no evidence of that.”

The false alarms can also lead kids down the rabbit hole.

Apps and social media sites leave a digital fingerprint. Kids and many parents don’t realize sending nude pictures can lead to a lifetime of problems.

“As for children, its against the law," said Houston. "When I say children, the law says under the age of 18, sexually explicit photos and that is a felony.”

Sextortion is the newest trend -- pictures sent to one person held for ransom.

Sometimes the criminals ask for money. Other times, they threaten kids if they don’t send more pictures.

“We’ve seen an increase in these cases over the last week and we have been able to gather some information that shows that person to be in Africa,” Houston said.

Houston explains social media can be a great tool, but can also have costly consequences, especially for taking, receiving or sharing inappropriate photos.

“The punishment is 5 years to 40 years in prison per image," said Houston. "The fine is $50,000 to $500,000 fine per image. That’s not the worse part. The worse part is by federal, by the state law, you have to register as a sex offender. Now part of registering as a sex offender is you have to for the rest of our life.”

Sharing a screenshot of threats can make it appear that the threat is coming from you.  Houston says you could find yourself answering questions or facing charges.

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