Nov. 5, 2013 -- A "virtual" 10-year-old girl named "Sweetie" lured hundreds of alleged pedophiles -- including 254 Americans -- into offering money to have the girl perform online sex acts, a group that fights child sex abuse claimed today.
Dutch child protection charity, Terre des Hommes, created "Sweetie" to carry out the international sting operation.
The group said it was able to obtain the names, IP computer addresses and online contact details of more than 1,000 suspected perpetrators in 65 countries in just over10 weeks. It passed the information on to Interpol.
Although national and international laws ban online child sex tourism, Terre des Hommes claims only six perpetrators have been convicted of this crime, which appears to be the latest trend in online child exploitation
"If we were able to identify 1,000 individuals in just two and a half months last summer, think how many of these people could be identified if governments took a more active approach," Albert Jaap Van Santbrink, the group's director, told ABC News. .
"The perpetrators think they are invisible, but we proved that they are anything but invisible. And we passed all the information to Interpol, who will contact national police forces," Van Santbrink said. "Internet is free, but it's not lawless."
Suspected pedophiles were tricked into believing they were engaged in an online chat with a 10-year-old girl from the Philippines called Sweetie, when in fact they were conversing with a team of four researches in the outskirts of Amsterdam.
He said men find these children through social media websites and chat rooms, then use untraceable credit cards and online aliases to get them to perform sexual acts, a video release from Terre des Hommes said.
"Most Americans have also been recorded from the webcam, so we can actually see who they are and see their family pictures in the background," Van Santbrink said. "That's the scariest part. They are fathers, husbands, partners, ordinary people you meet every day."
Van Santbrink insisted that the conversations captured by the researchers showed that the suspected pedophiles at all times believed they were dealing with a 10 year old girl. All of the sexual conversations were instigated by the suspected pedophiles and not by the researchers.
"We never accepted payments nor did we hack computers of the suspects. All the info was offered by the suspects themselves. Our researcher would say to a suspect that something is wrong with the chat, can we go to Facebook or Skype and in most cases the suspect agreed."
Interpol expressed reservations about Terre des Hommes tactic.
"It is important that any criminal investigations should only be undertaken by law enforcement professionals," Interpol said in a statement to ABC News. "This ensures that enquiries are conducted by individuals specifically trained in investigating these types of crime and that any evidence gathered is in accordance with national legislation and can therefore be submitted to the courts."