Online apps such as Snapchat are being used in local sextortion cases/ (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

14+ sextortion cases investigated in North Okanagan

RCMP issue public warning as a number involve teenagers

The public is being warned about a serious and increasing trend of youth being extorted in our community.

The Vernon North Okanagan RCMP has received and investigated over 14 reported incidents of sextortion, a form of blackmail that occurs when someone online threatens to make a sexual image or video you have shared with them public, since Jan. 1, 2022.

“Typically, the fraudster will contact the victim through a social media platform such as Snapchat or Instagram, using a fake account,” said Const. Ashley Fast with the special victim’s unit. “The fraudster lures the victim into sending a sexual image or performing a sexual act which they secretly record. Shortly after, the fraudster threatens to share the images if the victim doesn’t pay or provide more sexual content.”

Particularly concerning, is that a large percentage of these reported cases involve teenagers and police are asking for help from parents and caregivers, encouraging them to talk to their kids about the dangers of sextortion and the potential consequences of their online behaviour.

“Our teens need to know that it is never a good idea to share intimate images or videos online,” Fast said. “We understand for some parents it may be difficult discussing these topics with their kids but it’s necessary. Remember, it may be uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier.”

Kids, keep yourself safe online:

• Think before you post – information is instant, public, and permanent;

• Do not accept friend requests on social media from unknown people

• Do not share or send intimate images of yourself with anyone – if you aren’t okay with the whole world seeing it, do not send it;

• Use privacy settings on social media and keep personal information to a minimum

• Trust your instincts, if anything about an interaction makes you feel uncomfortable, end the conversation immediately.

Parents:

• Be open about online behaviour, place computers in busy family areas;

• Make online activity part of your regular conversations

• Encourage your teen to take breaks away from devices;

• Work with your children on how to behave safely online from a young age;

What to do if you are victim:

• Stop communicating with the person immediately;

• Do not comply with the threat, do not send money or additional images, doing so will not fix the situation;

• Save existing correspondence and report it to police immediately.

“Social media is a large part of our teens’ lives and by teaching them to act responsibly and establishing good online habits at a young age, we can help protect them from sextortion or other forms of exploitation. If it does happen, they know to go to a safe, trusted adult, to know there are resources available to help them, and that they are not alone.”

Resources and additional information on ways to keep your teens safe online can be found at needhelpnow.ca or cybertip.ca.

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