Public Safety Officials Warns Of Growing Sextortion Threat Facing Families
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety is sounding the alarm about the growing financial sextortion threat facing Minnesota families. They say that sextortion scenarios are being played out every day in homes around Minnesota. If you're unfamiliar with what sextortion is, it's when someone tricks a person into sending them explicit photos and then demands something in return for not sharing the photos. The extortionist often demands more pictures, videos, and meetings for sex acts or money. The recent rise in cases has primarily been financial sextortion, which is blackmail.
For example, a boy makes a new friend playing an online game. He thinks it's a cute girl who is interested in him. After talking for a while to build a level of trust, she sends him a nude photo of herself and asks for one in return. He sends her one and then things take a turn when she reveals herself to be a criminal who then demands money or she'll send the photo to friends and parents. This creates panic and shame, which can lead to tragedy.
According to the DPS, law enforcement nationwide received more than 7,000 reports related to online financial sextortion involving children in 2022, according to the FBI. They identified at least 3,000 victims, primarily boys. Tragically, more than a dozen children committed suicide because they felt there was no way out of the sextortion scheme. FBI data shows a large portion of these cases originate from outside the U.S., primarily in West African countries. That makes these cases extremely difficult to investigate or prosecute. Prevention is the best way to keep children safe.
“It doesn't matter where in our state you live. If your child uses the internet, they are at risk," said Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner Bob Jacobson. “Parents and caregivers, you are the first line of defense when your child is online. Talk with them about being safe, especially when meeting new people and sharing images or videos."
The video below features a Minnesota mom sharing how her son fell victim to a sextortion and how quickly it can happen. It's a sobering lesson for all families.
BCA Predatory Crimes agents are now investigating this case, along with many just like it involving families around the state. It's crucial that kids are aware of this threat and that they know if they fall victim to sextortion, there is help available.
Drew Evans, superintendent of the Department of Public Safety's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, says it's important for parents and trusted adults to have open and honest communication with the children in their lives. "If you believe a child has been victimized, please let them know they haven't done anything wrong and they can come to you if this or something like it happens to them. They are not in trouble, they are not alone, and there is help available."
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has outlined steps parents and caregivers can take if their child falls victim to a sextortion scheme:
- Get help before deciding to pay. Cooperating with the demands rarely stops extortion or harassment from continuing.
- Report the predator's account via the platform's safety feature.
- Block the predator but do not delete the profile or messages because they could be useful to law enforcement.
- NCMEC can help you get the images off the internet if they were posted.
Hopefully, knowing that resources are available to help with both preventing sextortion and dealing with it if does impact your child, will go a long way in protecting families.
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