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Young Punks Looking for Internet Kicks

New York- Prepaid cards that unlock one of the raunchiest X-rated sites on the Internet are being peddled by bodegas and newsstands across the city – even to underage kids, the Daily News has learned.

The so-called PPP cards cost $5 to $50, and work similar to prepaid telephone cards.

Each one has a scratchoff number that buyers can use to cloak themselves in virtual anonymity when they log on to a Web site filled with hard-core pornography.

Since it’s illegal to sell smut to minors, the cards are printed with an 18-and-over warning – but an investigation by The News revealed that some merchants are willing to sell them to youngsters.

“You’re minors, right?” one shopkeeper asked our test subjects, two boys ages 15 and 16, before pocketing their $10 and handing over a card for 14 days of access to a supposedly adults-only site.

It was hardly the equivalent of selling an adolescent a copy of Playboy.

If the boys had used the card, they would have ended up on a Web site rife with the rawest closeup photos and videos of sex acts, including intercourse and fetishes.

After hearing that the cards were being sold to kids, we asked two teens, Tom Segell, 16, the son of a News editor, and his pal, Graham Golden, 15, to visit six Manhattan spots that hawk them.

Three of the stores sold the cards to the teens, while the others refused.

At a newsstand on the corner of Broadway and W. 177th St., the vendor initially balked – but then arranged for a man standing nearby to purchase a $10 card for Tom and Graham.

The man behind the counter at Ariel Grocery on Broadway and 164th St. also sold them a $10 card – even after the boys confirmed they were underage.

At a newsstand on W. Third St. and Sixth Ave., the duo came away with a $20 card. All they had to do was tell the clerk, “C’mon, we’re 16-year-old boys!”

PPP cards hit the city about four months ago, after entrepreneur Greg Moss, 33, of the Bronx, bought the exclusive U.S. rights from a Canadian company. They are already in about 20 city stores, usually displayed among an array of prepaid phone cards. Each features a scantily clad woman on the front.

The Internet is flooded with adult-only sites, but most of them require users to pay for access with a major credit card.

That sometimes leads to recurring charges, identity theft, unwanted popup ads for other sex sites – and uncomfortable questions from a significant other when the bill arrives.

The PPP card sidesteps those problems because it’s purchased with cash and the scratchoff number is the only identification a user needs.

Moss plans to dramatically expand the rollout of the cards over the next few weeks, and then move into New Jersey, Miami and Atlanta in the coming months.

“Porn has always gotten a bad rap, but people enjoy it,” he said. “As a world, we need to face the fact that sex is part of people’s lives – and this is making it more secure and less worrisome.”

Moss calls it “hassle-free Web site surfing” – and based on our findings, that apparently applies to kids, too.

When he learned of The News’ probe, Moss said he was surprised, but noted his company signs a contract with retailers that states it can’t be held responsible if the cards are sold to minors.

“If we find someone is selling to below 18 we will immediately pull the cards,” he said. “We’re going to take all precautions.”

A vendor at the W. 177th St. newsstand declined to comment.

The cashier at the Ariel Grocery claimed he didn’t know that the card was for adults only – but couldn’t explain why he had commented that the boys were minors.

At the newsstand in the Village, the clerks were apologetic. “I’m sorry,” said Mohammed Khan. “We normally don’t do that. We won’t do it again.”

 

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