THE hidden dangers awaiting youngsters using Internet chatrooms were outlined yesterday as a £1m advertising campaign warned against online paedophiles.

Alisdair Gillespie, senior lecturer in criminal justice at Teesside University, is the country's only lecturer to sit on the Home Office's Internet Taskforce on Child Protection.

Yesterday, as a campaign was launched to highlight the potential dangers of communicating with strangers in cyberspace, he warned of the methods some paedophiles used to trap their young prey.

Mr Gillespie said: "There's a stereotypical image of paedophiles wearing long dirty macs, when in fact paedophiles are very intelligent. They will often come across as very nice because they're used to getting people to trust them."

One way of luring youngsters is for a paedophile to pretend they are aged about 14, littering their talk with references to fights with parents, favourite football clubs and pop groups.

But according to Mr Gillespie, another more sinister ruse is for two paedophiles to work as a team and bombard a youngster with heavy-handed sexual references.

"One of them will then get rid of the other by threatening to report him to the Internet Service Provider," he said.

"The child then thinks 'great, I can trust this person'.

"Suddenly, you have this situation whereby they have the child's trust."

But as the awareness campaign was launched, the Government said it did not want to demonise the web.

Home Office Minister Hilary Benn said: ''We want to encourage parents to help their children protect themselves so they can surf safely."