Riverside County

Experts Warn Parents About Online Safety After Riverside Triple Homicide

After a triple homicide took place in a Riverside home when a law enforcement officer impersonated a teenager and tricked a 15-year-old girl, experts are warning parents about online safety.

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There's no doubt many parents are shaken by the recent murders of three family members in Riverside.

Police say they were killed by man who used a fake internet profile to trick a victim's 15-year-old daughter into an online relationship.

It's also called, catfishing.

It's all about education. For instance, if you bring your kids to the park you tell them 'Don't talk to strangers.'

Experts say the same applies to the internet.

A Virginia law enforcement officer identified as 28-year-old Austin Lee Edwards is who investigators say impersonated a teenager on social media to trick a 15-year-old girl into an online relationship.

He showed up at the girl's Riverside home on Friday where police say he murdered her grandparents and the girl's mother.

He then adducts the teenage girl who is later rescued by deputies after Edwards is killed during a shoot out.

Many would agree it is shocking that a law enforcement officer could also be an online predator.

"They come from all walks of life," said Detective Robert Olsen from the Riverside Police.

Child Abuse Detective Robert Olsen can't talk about the Riverside case because it's still under investigation but he can talk about internet predators who use a common technique called, catfishing.

"They portray themselves to be somebody they are not either older or younger male or female," Olsen said. "They portray something they are not in order to attract people that wouldn't normally be attracted to them."

Safety experts say internet predators often target the most vulnerable, our children.

"Our children are at particular risk of this by people that are trying to be friends with them establishing a relationship of trust and rapport and then of course taking advantage of that to sexual exploit them," said JC Holt from Operation Underground Railroad.

JC Holt works for a non-profit organization that helps collect child exploitation evidence for law enforcement including the Riverside County DA's office.

He says it is vital that parents closely monitor their kids online activity because its not about being paranoid, it's about being a good parent.

"If they're using certain platforms to communicate with each other and strangers we should at least be familiar with those platforms and how they work," Holt said.

Detective Olsen agrees.

"The parent needs to know the passcode to that phone," Olsen said. "They need to monitor that device they need to look at it often."

He also says parents need to look for signs that their child may be trying to hide something.

"They're spending hours at a time in the restroom and they're now closing their bedroom door and locking it and playing loud music so you can't hear what's going on inside," Olsen said. "Those subtle changes in behavior that parents need to pay attention to."

Experts also say parents need to trust their instincts.

If you believe someone might be targeting your child call the police and have them check it out.

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