ALERT, along with numerous partner agencies, including the Australian Federal Police (Australian Center to Counter Child Exploitation [ACCCE]), Canadian Centre for Child Protection, the Toronto Police Service, FBI, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, National Child Exploitation Crime Centre (RCMP), New Zealand Police, UK’s Virtual Global Taskforce, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, are issuing a joint warning about the global sextortion crisis.
Law enforcement agencies have seen a major increase in sextortion cases, where children, specifically boys, are being coerced into sending explicit images online and are then extorted for money.
On average, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection receives 200 sextortion reports per month through Cybertip.ca, with 87 per cent of sextortion incidents reported affecting boys between the ages of 10 and 17.
Today, on Safer Internet Day, we are urging children, teens and caregivers to educate themselves about this crime and help us protect others from being victimized.
Sextortion can happen anywhere, although it mainly occurs on digital platforms where children are spending their screen time. Anyone can be victimized through their phones, gaming consoles and computers by way of social media, gaming websites or video chat. On these platforms, predators often pose as girls of a similar age and use fake accounts to target young boys, deceiving them into sending explicit photos or videos. The predator then threatens to release the compromising materials unless the victim sends payment, however in many cases, the predator will release the images anyway.
Children and teens can be targeted in their own homes, their classrooms, and in other public places. This serves as a good reminder to practice online safety by applying privacy and security settings within social media accounts and to not add or follow people unknown to you.
“There has never been greater urgency to initiate the conversation with our youth about the current online-cyber environment and warn them of potential susceptibilities and ensure vigilance so they do not become the next victim. Law enforcement agencies worldwide are joining forces to share resources and education materials to thwart sextortion scams, sexual exploitation and protect our youth from online predators; but we need your help. Unfortunately, thousands have fallen victim and it’s not enough to presume that ‘my child would never do that’,” said Supt. Marc Cochlin, ALERT CEO.
If you or someone you know is being sextorted:
Even though financial sextortion is committed virtually, it can have serious impacts offline. After the threats and aggression, victims may feel alone, ashamed, scared, and these feelings can lead to self harm. Law enforcement around the world wants victims to know they are not in trouble and they are not alone.
Anyone with information about any child exploitation situation is asked to contact their local police or to report their concern anonymously at www.cybertip.ca.
ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.