By Claudia Shea - bio
WFLX Fox 29, West Palm Beach, Florida
(WFLX) - Imagine being framed for a crime you didn't commit. It happens more often than most of us would like to believe. Loved ones stumbling upon child pornography -- placed in their PC by someone they don't know.
"You're always a sex offender," said one convicted sex offender. He's sharing his sorrows in exchange for sealing his identity. "What I've done to myself, to my family, my friends, the embarrassment that it has caused everybody else."
He doesn't deny his guilt, and says it's not easy dealing with the shame. He must live with being labeled a sex offender. "Even myself before I got into trouble, whenever, I heard the word sex offender or sexual predator, I always thought of a child molester."
Now, imagine you are accused of one of the most heinous crimes known to man. No amount of legal fee's can fend off the stigma: You're now labeled a pedophile for the rest of your life.
An Associated Press investigation found some disturbing cases in which innocent people have been branded pedophiles. Co-workers or loved ones stumbling upon child porn placed on a PC through a virus. Pranksters or someone trying to frame you by tapping an Internet connection to make it appear you surf illegal Web sites.
They may also be pedophiles themselves storing their stash without fear of being caught. Whatever the motivation, you also get child porn on your computer. "Nationwide, I've only found four cases where someone has by malicious intent of another person had child pornography put on their computer," said Bryan Oakley.
Oakley is a special agent with the FBI who works pedophilia cases on a common basis. "They generally want immediate access to that material. With it being remotely stored, they don't have immediate access to that material. Say it's a laptop or home computer, when they want to access it, it may be off your network may be down. They no longer have access to that data."
This cyber-crimes specialist downplays the likelihood of having a pedophile store their porn on your PC, but says accusations aren't totally uncommon. "Commonly, in a some kind of domestic dispute, a divorce or child custody battle, one of the other spouses may call on the other and say, 'My spouse or ex spouse has child pornography on their computer', and many of the times, we found it was placed their by the spouse who had called in."
Oakley says there are several ways to protect yourself and ways to tell if you've been framed.
- "If you do happen to find on your computer, there is child pornography on your computer and you self report it, we are going to compare your story of what's occurred verse what we're actually seeing on the computer itself."
- "If those two match up, and you say, 'I found it and I looked at one image, and I deleted it, and I deleted the folder it was in, and we find that's exactly what occurred, we're not going to charge you with child pornography because that was not your intent. It was not something you were trying to do.
There's only one thing you can do to protect yourself, and that's ensure that your computer is secure and up-to-date with its malware protections. File-sharing programs appear to be exceptionally apt at being carriers for this kind of stuff, so use them with caution.