CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Social media at core of two kidnappings in two weeks

Mar 23, 2022, 4:21 PM | Updated: 4:59 pm

Social media, especially oculus is popping up as the primary social media behind a couple of Utah-t...

SAN JOSE, CA - The Oculus logo is displayed at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference in 2017. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah girls were allegedly kidnapped in a period of less than a month, after meeting their alleged kidnappers on the same social media platform — Oculus.

Police said 14-year-old Areli Arroyo Osuna and her alleged kidnapper, 20-year-old David Lopez,  met on the platform a few months ago. Tuesday evening they were found in Texas. Both are now in police custody. 

Police locate the 14-year-old girl at center of Amber Alert

Back on March 8, 25-year-old Chris Evans of Florida was arrested, accused of kidnapping a 13-year-old teen girl from Roosevelt, Utah. He allegedly targeted the victim through “Oculus. The victim was found at a truck stop in Cheyenne, Wyo. She was not hurt.

Evans has been charged with first-degree felony child kidnapping and harboring a runaway, a class B misdemeanor.

Tara Anderson of Nexus IT joined KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to talk about the dangers lurking on the internet for the young and vulnerable.

What is Oculus?

Anderson said the VR gaming platform Oculus is ripe for grooming victims because there are no parental controls.

“[Oculus] is most of the time a solo experience. You’re doing VR sports or going on some adventure, but there are collaboration games where strangers can join. So there are many different chat rooms… ” she said. “A setback with Oculus is that there are no parental controls on it. You just need a Facebook account to sign up for it.”

In a virtual-reality environment, older people can join in and disguise both their age and their gender, Anderson said.

“It’s a very real experience that is not only really disturbing for most children, but also it invites conversation. Older men can come in and appear to be a middle schooler of the same age, of the same gender and start with really friendship conversation.”

Noriega pointed out that with video games, parents can see what’s happening on the computer or TV screen, but with Oculus, the player uses goggles, and parents can’t see or hear what’s happening during the game.

Here’s more on how to protect your kids on social media.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Social media at core of two kidnappings in two weeks