5 Things To Know About ‘Undercover Underage’ Star Roo Powell
From the outside, it looks like a quiet Connecticut home, but the inside is home base for Roo Powell’s organization dedicated to catching child sexual predators.
Roo Powell is an adult woman who transforms into underage girls to engage with child predators and protect the most vulnerable. Here's what you need to know about Powelll and her work:
Powell is not a cop
Roo Powell is a writer whose work has appeared on packaging for major brands like Barnes & Noble, Target and Nordstrom. She’s also been a ghostwriter and researcher. After an article about her work to identify child predators went viral, she realized there was a huge need to spread the word about how online child predators groom children via social media. Powell and her team, while not officers themselves, regularly consult law enforcement to ensure that they are not entrapping alleged predators and that evidence they gather is admissible in court.
Powell formed her own organization to combat online sexual abuse
SOSA (Safe from Online Sexual Abuse) exists to educate children, parents, teachers, and caregivers about the tactics and pervasiveness of online predators who work to gain the trust of children before beginning to abuse them. In addition to partnering with schools to keep kids safe, SOSA also supports a company that helps social media platforms identify harmful language before a child can be harmed. Advocacy and support for other children’s safety organizations is also a large part of SOSA’s work.
The underage personas aren’t real, but they are very believable
Powell and her team have crafted what they call “personas” for a handful of underage girls, and each girl has an entire life and online presence curated into a believable story for when would-be abusers start asking questions about their lives. Powell’s team rents a house where each bedroom is decorated differently so the setting is right when she video chats with an adult who is attempting to contact a minor. Powell’s appearance is also altered. She utilizes wigs and makeup to disguise herself. Photos of Powell’s face for the various social media profiles are edited so she appears to be a young teen.
The alleged predators aren’t the only ones with pseudonyms, and it takes extensive research to identify them
Powell’s team works to identify the alleged predators so their identities can be turned over to law enforcement. Some of the alleged predators also create pseudonyms and personas so their actual identities can’t be traced. Others give hints about their identities when they talk about their careers and places they like to go. Powell’s team attempts to connect the dots to positively identify the alleged predators, and Powell attempts to get information by asking innocent questions while chatting with the men.
Would-be predators have been arrested because of Powell’s work
In a case featured in episode four of the series, a former cop named Cullen Jones was busted after connecting with a girl on Instagram who he thought was a high school sophomore. Quickly, his messages went from expressing friendship to lewd. He even said he wanted to help the teen become emancipated from her parents so they could marry. That teenage girl was actually Powell backed by a team of trackers. They were able to gather clues that led them to Jones’s true identity and the revelation that he was out on bond for soliciting sexual conduct with a minor. Roo and team shared their information with the police in Oklahoma which led to a 10 year sentence rather than the originally expected time of probation or 1-2 years.
How do Powell and her team manage to make it all work? Watch Undercover Underage streaming now on discovery+ and airing each Thursday on Investigation Discovery beginning on February 24.