Teen found safe after flying to Morocco to meet Facebook boyfriend

Jul 10, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. ET

In a series of unfolding events, a teen girl's actions are a chilling reminder of the importance of internet safety.

Rebecca Arthur made headlines for flying to Morocco to meet her boyfriend for the first time without telling anyone. The 17-year-old originally told her mother she was traveling to California to visit a friend. When Rebecca's mother gave her a ride to the JFK International Airport, she never assumed things would take a turn for the worse.

"The daughter had no intent of going to California," reveals Sgt. Jeremiah Dunn, a spokesperson for the Clinton Police Department.

WFSB News reports Rebecca, a home-schooled student, likely forged travel documents that would allow her to fly internationally. Upon further search, police discovered a photo of Arthur's plane ticket to Morocco, along with a series of messages between her and a man called Simo El Adala. Police believe El Adala paid for Rebecca's ticket.

Investigators feared El Adala is not who he says he is. "We don't know if he's real, if he is somebody else and what her motives were for going to Morocco or why she lied to her mom," said Sgt. Dunn. "We've confirmed with the American Consulate that she arrived safely, but where she went after that, we just don't know."

Rebecca and Simo met on Facebook and have been in a relationship since February, according to the social media site.

With the help of the FBI, U.S. Consulate in Morocco and Department of Homeland Security, Rebecca has been located — and appears to be safe. NBC News just revealed the teen was found in a Moroccan community with El Adala and his family. According to police, both Rebecca and Simo never told their parents about their plans.

The U.S. Department of State advises Americans visiting Morocco to maintain a low profile, as "the potential for terrorist violence against U.S. interests and citizens exists." The site also mentions occasions when a U.S. citizen met a Moroccan online and went to visit them.

It doesn't matter if you're a child or an adult — it's so important to practice internet safety. Not everyone is upfront and honest about who they are, and that can make any encounters in real life extremely dangerous. For safety reasons, you should never meet someone in person you "met" online. Things like online dating can make this tricky, which is why many tell a friend or loved one about their plans — and even have them meet at the date location in secret.

Thankfully this story had a happy ending, though many sadly don't get the same outcome.

More on internet safety

Keeping up with your kids on the internet
Vacationing in the digital age
Monday Mom challenge: Spy on yourself online