An online trend in which teens are coerced into sharing sexual images and then extorted for cash has worried Saskatchewan police.
Police for the Saskatchewan Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit warn parents to be on the lookout for “sextortion,” which police say is becoming an all too common online trend.
“Sextortion,” police say, occurs when perpetrators contact victims — most commonly teenagers — through chat-based social media platforms, often disguising their identities by pretending to be young girls.
They establish a relationship, which police say often involves flattery or creating a fake relationship, before sending the victims intimate pictures.
“They will then force their victims to send back sexualized personal images,” police said in a press release. “Upon receipt, the perpetrator threatened to send the pictures to the youth’s family and friends. They will then extort money from the youth to prevent this.”
The trend has recently been observed across Canada, police said, including cases in Saskatoon.
“Sask ICE has received over a dozen reports of these types of incidents over the past month,” police said. “Suspects in these cases are often overseas and difficult to identify and prosecute.”
According to Cybertip.ca — a website that allows Canadians to report online child sexual exploitation — an average of 168 “sextortion” reports are made each month, and incidents rose 150 percent between December 2021 and May this year. In July and August alone, more than 600 reports of sextortion were submitted from across Canada.
ICE unit police encouraged parents to “have age-appropriate conversations with their child about personal safety online and what to do when they find themselves in a situation that makes them uncomfortable.”
For more information on sextortion and how to prevent it, click here on the Cybertip website.