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Sextortion scams targeting young males on the rise: N.S. RCMP

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The RCMP in Nova Scotia is warning the public of an increase in sextortion scams targeting young males in the province.

A news release from RCMP Tuesday says police have seen an increase in reports of money-motivated sextortion in recent months, specifically targeting males between the ages of 12 and 20.

Police say although everyone is at risk of financial sextortion, recent findings suggest that young males have represented the majority of cases in the last year. According to Canada's tip line – Cybertip.ca – 91 per cent of sextortion incidents affected boys.

"It is important to remember that while boys represent the majority of reported victims, anyone can be victimized," reads the news release. "Also remember that you are not alone – if this has happened to you, there is help and there is life after images."

Source: Nova Scotia RCMP

What is sextortion

Sextortion, which is a form of blackmail, is when someone online threatens to send a sexual image or video of you to other people if you don't pay them or provide more sexual content.

Police say it typically happens when the victim is tricked into believing they are talking to a female online.

According to police, this contact often occurs on Instagram and then moves to Snapchat, with the offender often saying their microphone does not work so they can only use the chat function. Police say these conversations can last for 20 minutes to several hours.

"The victim is convinced to exchange sexual content such as photos, videos, and livestream" says RCMP.

"The offender will then threaten to share the material publicly and/or with the victim’s friends and family, unless they comply with demands, which can include sending more explicit content or money."

How to prevent sextortion

The RCMP is encouraging caregivers to speak to youths about how to prevent sextortion, including:

  • do not accept social media friend requests from strangers
  • avoid sharing intimate images and videos online
  • keep electronic devices out of bedrooms at bedtime
  • monitor online activities

"Just talking about it will make it seem less embarrassing, like you're the only one," said Const. Mandy Edwards with the Nova Scotia RCMP Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit, in an interview with CTV Atlantic's Todd Battis Tuesday. "So, I would just have that open communication and kind of monitor what your children are doing online."

"I know with some teens, it might be a bit more difficult. They spend a lot of time alone, maybe in their rooms or different areas of the home, but having that communication, knowing what apps they're using... and you could set certain parameters such as no cellphone, no device in the bedroom. Just try and really safeguard."

Reporting sextortion

Anyone who believes they are a victim of sextortion should reach out to a trusted adult or the police, and take the following steps:

  • do not comply with any threats
  • stop talking to them and screenshot the messages
  • never pay money or send additional images or videos
  • delete and block the offender
  • report to www.cybertip.ca and report to your local police

"Remember, even though sextortion is committed virtually, it has a profound effect. Victims can feel alone, ashamed, scared, and sometimes desperate – to the point where they can harm themselves," reads the RCMP's news release.

Edwards said sextortion scams are an international problem.

"When we do get the information, such as an IP address of the offender... to determine where they're located, it usually is international. So, it's not a local offender and sometimes it can be hard to track down that person due to international policing," she said.

Supports and more information can be found online.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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