What is Sextortion?
Sextortion is a form of blackmail or extortion that involves someone online threatening to send a sexual image or video of you to other people if you don’t pay them or provide more sexual content.
Anyone can become a victim of sextortion but youths are usually the targeted victims.
How Does Sextortion Occur?
Sextortion involves an offender befriending a person through any site, app, messaging platform, or gaming platform where people meet and communicate. Most of these situations begin with the victim receiving a random friend request from a stranger on one of these platforms.
In some cases, the first contact from the offender will be a threat that they claim to already have a revealing picture or video of the victim that will be shared if they don’t send money or more pictures.
In most cases, however, the offender often begins by pretending to be a young girl or woman, regardless of the gender of the victim, and will also pretend to be similar in age to the victim and who is interested in a relationship or is willing to trade sexually explicit photos or videos. For some, the temptation is too hard to resist.
They chat over a short period of time, usually several hours, but in some cases, as little as 20 minutes and the conversation will become sexual in nature. During that time the sextorters will try to convince their victims to exchange sexual content and often start the trade by sharing a sexual photo first. The victim then sends a sexual photo or video of themselves or is tricked into exposing themselves or engaging in a sexual act over a live stream. What the victim doesn’t know is that they are being recorded.
Immediately after receiving the sexual content, the sextorter makes demands for money or more images. They will threaten to leak the content online or share it directly with the victim’s friends/family or they may threaten violence if the victim doesn’t comply. They will try to intimidate their victim by telling them that their lives will be ruined and that they will bring shame to their families. It’s common for the offender to share screenshots of the victim’s contacts or other identifying information (school, home address) to terrify the victim into sending money or more sexual photos.
If a female is victimized, the sextorter typically demands additional sexual photos and videos. If the sextorter targets a male, they almost always demand money or some form of payment.
If the victim gives in, the sextorter will often demand more sexual photos or money. Sextorters will sometimes barter and accept a lower amount if the victim says they cannot pay.
The shame, fear, and confusion victims, especially youths, feel when they are caught in this cycle often prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse. Caregivers and young people should understand how these crimes occur and openly discuss online safety.
Sextortion Prevention Tips
- Limit the amount of personal information you post, making it difficult for scammers to learn information about you.
- Set your social media privacy settings to limit who can contact you.
- Don’t accept unknown friend requests.
- Cover your webcam when you aren’t using it so you can’t be recorded without your consent.
- Don’t click on links or download files from unknown sources. Anti-virus software can help filter out potentially dangerous emails.
- Requests for intimate images of yourself should be a red flag and never send them to any social media platform or electronic device.
- Think first before sharing sexual images of yourself with anyone. You may not trust someone tomorrow that you trusted today. Once you share those images you no longer have control over where they go, what happens with them, or who sees them.
Tips For Parents
- Let your children know you are available to talk at any time.
- Let them know they can come to you or another safe adult with questions or problems, and that you can help if something has happened – even if they’ve made a mistake.
- Talk about online safety, privacy, establishing boundaries, healthy relationships and consent.
- Talk to them about not giving in to pressure and breaking off communication if they feel threatened or uncomfortable.
- Talk to them about befriending strangers online and the information they share.
- Make them aware of online threats like sextortion, fake profiles, and fraud.
- Look for resources on how to keep your child safe online.
- Monitor your child’s online activities, social media profiles and who they are friends with.
- Learn about parental controls on platforms your child uses.
- Excellent resource with videos – Essex County Youth Diversion – Keep Your Privates Private
- Offers good tips – https://protectchildren.ca/en/.
What to do if You Are a Victim of Sextortion
- Stop all communication with the offender.
- DO NOT comply with any threats or demands. DO NOT send any money or any more images.
- DO NOT give in to threats. So, never pay money and never send additional nudes. The situation won’t get better. If you’ve already paid money, check to see if it has been collected. If it hasn’t – quickly cancel the payment.
- Deactivate, but do not delete your social media account or images.
- Save all texts, images, and communications.
- Take screenshots of the messages and the person’s profile including their user name.
- If you are a youth, or even if you are legally an adult, tell your parent or guardian, so they can help you.
- Contact your local police service to report the incident – you are not alone!
- Make a report through Cybertip.ca – Sextortion reports are forwarded to the police.
- Report the suspect user through the social media platform from which they are contacting you.
- Trust that there is life after images. The offender might make you feel like your life is ruined, but you are not alone. Don’t deal with this alone. We can get through this together!
Even though financial sextortion is committed virtually, it can have serious impacts offline. After the threats and aggression, victims can feel alone, ashamed, scared, and sometimes desperate – to the point where they can harm themselves. Countless children and adults in Canada and around the world have been threatened in this way. There are resources and supports available to help. You are not alone.
If You Need Help, There Are Resources Available to You:
- Cybertip.ca provides information on staying safe online and how to report any concerns. You can provide your name and contact information, or complete the form anonymously. Their staff can assist youth in crisis and help them and their family through the incident.
- Cybertip.ca also manages Project Arachnid. This program helps victims have their images removed if they are shared publicly.
- Don’t Get Sextorted has information on staying safe and getting help.
- Need Help Now provides information on emotional support, reporting, helping a friend, and answering frequently asked questions.
- Public Safety Canada provides youth, parents and caregivers with educational resources on Online Dangers, including sextortion.
- Kids Help Phone can provide urgent support in terms of emotional support and steps on what to do next.
- The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has sextortion resources available to the public.
- The Department of Justice’s Victim Services Directory can provide information on resources in your community available to victims of online child sexual exploitation.
LaSalle Police Service – 519 969-5210