SEATTLE -- There is a new form of child abuse that connects predators to kids thousands of miles away.
Crime syndicates and even parents in poorer countries have begun setting up children with a webcam, laptop and an internet connection. Then people in wealthier countries pay to chat with the children and watch them undress.
The whole thing is known as online child sex tourism.
“It makes it easier for the criminal element to put these images online in a place that they feel safe,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of homeland security investigations in Seattle.
“Abuse like this often happens at the intersection of poverty and greed,” said Jacinta Tegman, president of World Concern, a Seattle-based group that helps impoverished people globally.
Tegman said parents of these children might feel there is no other way to put food on the table, so they buy a cheap computer and get an internet connection, allowing their children to be abused online.
“As long as there are broken, hurting people who believe they have no choices, there will be an exploitation of that vulnerability,” Tegman said.
Homeland Security is not the only group that is working to solve the problem. A Dutch child protection association made a virtual child to catch the men abusing children through webcams.
The narrator of an online demonstration video said: “Using bits of information they [the predators] give us, we identify them with Google, Facebook and other sources."
In just two months the Dutch group identified 1,000 predators around the world -- 254 from the United States.