Drug dealers using social media to target children

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An Action News investigation has found that drug dealers are push the sale of dangerous substances to children on social media. (WPVI)

An Action News investigation has found that drug dealers are push the sale of dangerous substances to children on social media.

"Part of it is innocent, but part of it has a very dark side," said Kristin, mother of two.

Instagram, Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter - they are the way kids play video games and connect.

However as Kristin found out, those same sites are now being used by criminals to target your children.

"Drug dealers have hit a new low and they are no longer are on the streets, they are using family applications on your phone to sell drugs," she said.

Kristin and her son posted a picture of her dog in Instagram, hashtagging his name, "Beanz"

"I had no idea that was a street name for a drug," she said.

Suddenly detailed descriptions of how to order GHB, cocaine, and narcotics started streaming into her feed.

"It was shocking. It wasn't just your everyday pills people are prescribing. There was some hard core stuff on there and they were being sold and mailed through the mail to younger kids," said Kristin.

So Action News got online and anonymously emailed one of the dozens of Instagram dealers we found posting pictures of drugs - everything from oxycodone to valium and the street drug 'Molly.'

Within 24 hours this drug pusher was willing to overnight 10 pills of the date rape drug GHB in an Amazon box to throw off the prying eyes of parents.

All we had to do was send a Western Union wire to someone in Philadelphia.

"Hopefully we'll be able to track them down," said Lt. John Stanford, Philadelphia Police.

We turned over the information to Philadelphia Police, who are investigating our case.

Police warn that these family-friendly apps are exploding with illicit activity.

"We do have a watchful eye on it and it's something that we will not tolerate. It's equally the same if you're standing out on a corner selling narcotics," said Stanford.

Just last month police in Montgomery County busted a group dubbed "The Mainline Drug Dealers." They say a minor who was part of the crew used Instagram to sell weed.

You can also find marijuana being peddled on Facebook, under the seemingly innocent hashtag "trees."

"It gives them the opportunity, at least they think it gives them the opportunity, to be able to spread their business across state lines," said Stanford.

According to police, many dealers use their real names, phone numbers, and email addresses, leaving a virtual footprint that makes them easy to trace.

And the openness of these sales and social media postings can also help parents keep track of what their own children are doing.

"There are tools out there that allow parents to go and draw geofences we call them, you know fences around specific geographic areas that you know your child is going to be at," said Rob D'Ovidio, Ph.D.

D'Ovidio, a cyber-specialist from Drexel University, showed us some easy to use tools parents can use to cyber-spy on their kids, whether they are at the prom or at a party.

"The parent can go on with some free tools, draw a picture in cyberspace, draw a circle in cyberspace around that person's house and are able to monitor the Instagram feeds, the Twitter feeds that are coming out of that particular location," said D'Ovidio.

We reached out to both Twitter and Instagram about the illegal activities.

Twitter released the following statement:

Our Twitter Rules, which outline content boundaries on the platform, prohibit "use our service for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities." We do not proactively monitor content, but we review reports from users. Additionally, our Guidelines for Law Enforcement explain how to request private information about Twitter users.

Instagram released the following statement:

Instagram has a clear set of rules about what is and isn't allowed on the site. We encourage people who come across illegal or inappropriate content report it to us using the built-in reporting tools next to every photo, video or comment, so we can take action.

The following websites have helpful tips and resources for parents:

- Echosec

- 47deg
Related Topics:
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