CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Authorities are warning parents at home that predators like the ones caught in Chesterfield County can pretend to be anyone.

Detectives arrested 16 men in connection to an online sex sting between March 31 to April 28. They caught the men by posing as underage girls and arranging to meet up in-person.

The Chesterfield County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit conducted the operation. Some of the suspects live in Central Virginia, while others live as far away as Georgia.

In total, the suspects are facing 31 charges.

The most important thing the Federal Bureau of Investigation said parents need to do is have open conversations with their kids about what’s safe to be doing online.

The FBI most often sees crimes against children begin when an adult forms a relationship with a young victim online and arranges to meet up or coerces a child into sending sexually explicit photos and video.

Protecting your kids

  • Educate yourself about the websites, software, games, and apps that your children use.
  • Check their social media and gaming profiles and posts. Have conversations about what is appropriate to say or share.
  • Explain to your kids that once images or comments are posted online they can be shared with anyone and never truly disappear.
  • Make sure your kids use privacy settings to restrict access to their online profiles.
  • Tell your children to be extremely wary when communicating with anyone online who they do not know in real life.
  • Encourage kids to choose appropriate screen names and to create strong passwords.
  • Make it a rule with your kids that they can’t arrange to meet up with someone they met online without your knowledge and supervision.
  • Stress to your children that making any kind of threat online—even if they think it’s a joke—is a crime.
  • Report any inappropriate contact between an adult and your child to law enforcement immediately. Notify the site they were using, too.

If any inappropriate contact between an adult and a child is made, let law enforcement know about it and tell them which website they were using.