An online predator is an Internet user who exploits vulnerable people, usually for sexual or financial purposes. Most internet sex offenders are young adults who target people who are usually younger in age.
Adolescents and the elderly are most often the victims of online predators. Some experts recommend not providing personally identifiable information such as a name, password, phone number, address or credit card, or even Social Security numbers,though providing personal information is not usually associated with being targeted by Internet child predators. Prepubescent children are not often targeted.
Online victimization of minors can include requests to engage in sexual activities or discussions by an adult; unwanted exposure to sexual material (opening junk mail with naked pictures, etc.); online harassment, threats or other aggressive communications that are not sexual in nature but cause distress, fear or embarrassment .
While chat and instant messaging are most often used by online predators, they also appear in other places. For example, MySpace has been accused of
attracting online predators. A 2007 study, however, found no cases of minors
being targeted by Internet predators on the basis of information they had posted on social networking sites.
Software which attempts to monitor computer activity has seen some popularity with parents concerned about Internet predators.