The summer months can be dangerous time for teens as they can suffer from boredom leading them to do careless things like talking to strangers on online forms. If you're a parent of a tween or teen, you need to make sure you're speaking to your teens about the dangers of sharing sexual material online especially because of the rise of sextortion scams targeting them. Sextortion involves criminals reaching out and forming relationships with teens on social media platforms like Snapchat, BeReal, Discord as well as online gaming platforms. With the help of AI, criminals are able to disguise themselves as teens to friend them and trick them into sending nude photos. The most unfortunate aspect of this scam is that it has cause at least 12 teens who have fallen victim to this scam to commit suicide. Here's what you need to know:
How does it work? Cyber crooks setup online profiles or steal social media accounts that appear to be around the same age as the victim. They then reaching out for a friend request on various online chat platforms and then move the conversation to a platform such as Instagram where they can view the victim’s personal information and contacts. They then send the victim an intimate image and encourage them to take part in video chats or sharing their own intimate pictures. Screenshots are taken of intimate images and videos are recorded. As soon as an intimate image or video has been shared, the victim is told they have been recorded and that the recording or pictures will be shared online or with their friends and family unless a ransom is paid immediately. The scammers apply pressure to the victim and tell them the image will be deleted as soon as they pay.
There have been sextortion cases with losses as high as $3500. As with most extortion cases, this figure could be higher as most victims won't report they have been extorted. What's worse with sextortion, there have been instances of teens who feel they are put into a no win situation with this scam and they take their lives rather than face public humiliation from having the photos and videos released to family and friends.
What are some of the signs of a sextortion scam? Some tell-tale signs of a sextortion scam include but are not restricted to:
Meeting the victim on one app and quickly encouraging them to move the conversation onto another app.
Inconsistencies with the profile or language – such as English being a second language which may not match their profile picture or story.
Immediate introduction of sexual conversations – the victim will be encouraged to engage in sexual activities, by either a real person who is part of a larger blackmailing operation or a pre-recorded video.
The scammer being hesitant to reveal their true identity, giving excuses like their webcam/camera isn’t working for video calls.
What to do if your teen has fallen victim to sextortion?
If your children have fallen victim to a sextortion scam, then immediately support, without questions of why they did what they did, to ensure that they do not pay, and that they and you are prepared for how people may react if the images or video is released. More steps include:
The first step is to cease all contact with the scammer.
Save or screenshot any online chats for evidence, then block the scammer’s profile.
If they are still sending threatening messages, victims should not pay them and or share any more images or videos.
It might be helpful to tell friends and family not to engage with any strangers who message them.
The next step is to contact the correct authorities – by reporting to a local police station
if you have a copy of the private images or video you are being threatened with, you can use a free service to get them removed. Images or videos of people under 18 years of age: Take It Down. (https://takeitdown.ncmec.org/) Images or videos of people aged 18 and over: Stop NCII (https://stopncii.org/)
It might be a good idea to deactivate your teens social media profiles for a while or set social media account privacy settings to their highest level
Hopefully, this post has given you the information you need to keep your teens safe from the dangers of sextortion scams. If you think you're being targeted, don't hesitate to reach out. If you need further assistance, please reach out to me with any questions you might have. I am always happy to help!
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