Discovery+: Undercover Underage is compelling true crime

Undercover Underage - Courtesy ID
Undercover Underage - Courtesy ID /

Discovery+ began streaming Undercover Underage in  2021, and ID recently announced a second season for the true crime series. It focuses on SOSA (Safe From Online Sex Abuse), a non-profit organization that focuses on adults who prey on minors online.

Over the three-day holiday weekend, I binge watched all six episodes of the compelling non-scripted series on discovery+, and I am definitely looking forward to season two. I recommend it to true crime followers, as it gives viewers an up close and personal look at what these online creeps are really like, and how hard it is to catch them.

SOSA’s founder is Roo Powell, a 38-year-old mom who poses as a teen online. She has several different carefully crafted personas, with 15-year-old Flori the most featured on Undercover Underage. Roo and her team have decorated and set up three different bedrooms, one for each of Roo’s personas.

A lot of time has been spent setting up these faux bedrooms, even to the point of displaying certificates of achievement, photos, trendy lighting (which often helps disguise Roo’s true age) and teen-appropriate décor.

Undercover Underage
Undercover Underage – courtesy ID /

As we see on Undercover Underage, Roo even comes up with backstories for her teen personas.

The purpose of the set-up is so “Flori” (or Alex, or Natalie) can video chat with the creepy men who want to hook up with a teen, and Roo really manages to pull it off. Armed with hoodies, hats, fake braces, wigs, string lighting and a high pitched voice, she becomes 15-year-old Flori, and the creeps fall for it, even though most of them start out being very cautious.

If you think true crime doesn’t fit into the realm of horror unless it includes murder, consider this: a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania estimates that between 100,000 and 300,000 women and children per year are victims of sex trafficking. The average age of an adolescent victim is 12 years old. 12. Years. Old. Let that sink in for a moment.

As Flori chats on video with her admirers, their voices are always disguised, and the horrible things they say are typed up on the screen for us. Profanities are, of course, bleeped, but it’s chilling to see how casually they verbally abuse her. They have no idea they are talking to a grown woman, and even comment on how cute her braces are…right before they ask her to take off her top.

In several of the episodes, men set up meetings with Flori/Alex, and Roo has to venture out, never intending to actually meet the creeps face-to-face. As she sets out with a fake Uber driver, she messages or calls at the meeting time, stating hysterically that her mom knows where she is going, and she’s in trouble and doesn’t know what to do. That’s smart, because that makes the man tell her to go home.

In reality, the team is staking out the meeting place, in an effort to find a car or actually lay eyes on the guy. In one case, they think the perp sees Flori from a distance, and he briefly drops contact. It’s unlikely that he figures out her real age, because she is dressed the part and wearing a face mask, but it’s still pretty intense.

SOSA is not part of law enforcement, though they do work closely with them, so once they are able to establish the identity of a creep and think they have enough evidence, they turn everything over. At that point, it’s out of their hands, and it’s disconcerting how often we are told that no charges have been made as of the air date of the episode.

There are a few very satisfying endings. Take the case of the 45-year-old former cop who told “Alex” he wanted to marry her and have a child with her. Not only was the team able to identify him, they discovered that he was already awaiting sentencing for soliciting a 14-year-old girl who happened to be an undercover detective. He was found with gloves, a knife and zip ties in his car, which led authorities to believe he may have intended to abduct his victim. His communications with Alex changed his expected sentence of 1-2 years to ten years, so it was a job very well done by Roo and her very supportive team at SOSA.

If you watch Undercover Underage, you may find yourself crying a little, cringing a little, cheering a little, and wanting to high-five Roo, Shelby, Matt, Avalon, Kelly and Sgt. Mark Suda (who often poses as an Uber driver).

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Are you a follower of true crime series, and have you watched Undercover Underage? Tell us what you think of the series in the comments section.