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And though would-be sexual predators are surely aware of this ploy, the number of them stepping into these digital traps continues to soar.

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Naughton, the former leader of Walt Disney Co.'s online efforts who last week was arrested on sex charges by the FBI, couldn't seem to avoid undercover agents in the seedy chat rooms he is accused of frequenting.Just last month, he had at least two undercover agents competing for his virtual affections.Both were posing as 13-year-old girls from Los Angeles, and both were coyly traipsing through a chat room known to be a place where older men solicit underage girls like wolves trolling for Little Red Riding Hoods.FBI officials say it's possible he was also unwittingly carrying on with undercover agents from other FBI offices around the country.He is free on a ,000 bond and is set to be arraigned Oct. The 230 cases are more than double the number from all of last year, illustrating the growth in the Internet as a hangout for sexual predators.

Heavy Online Focus, Offline Problem No one argues that trying to protect children from online predators is not worth the effort.

But given that only a small fraction of molestation victims meet their molesters on the Internet, some children's advocates and legal experts wonder whether the heavy online focus is out of proportion to what is still mainly an offline problem."In the past 10 years we've handled about 4,000 cases" of sexually abused children, said Erin Sorensen, director of a children's advocacy center in Chicago.

Hundreds of officers conduct identical stings every day on behalf of agencies ranging from the U. Customs Service to the Redondo Beach Police Department.

Whether the Internet has truly spawned more pedophiles, molesters and other sexual predators is debatable.

But there is little doubt that the Internet has become law enforcement's favorite tool for catching them.

Agents posing as teens almost certainly outnumber actual teens in many of the Internet's seedier chat rooms these days.