The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is warning the public of sextortion scams that are circulating within the East Region and throughout Ontario.
According to a release from the OPP, recent reports of sextortion involve scammers contacting the victim through social media or online dating sites and threatening to share intimate photos of them with their family, friends and contacts unless the victim pays them a sum of money.
OPP said that the scammer often requests the funds be sent via money transfer services, cryptocurrencies and/or gift cards. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), extortion frauds represented $17 million in reported losses in 2021 and over $16.4 million in 2020.
“Sextortion frauds can begin on any social media site, dating site or online game where the context is for people to meet and communicate virtually,” OPP said in the release. “The shame, fear and confusion victims feel when they become caught in this cycle often prevents them from coming forward and asking for help.”
OPP shared the following tips to protect yourself:
- Beware of unknown persons who attempt to communicate with you over the internet
- Never send money to people you do not know
- Never send compromising photos to anyone, regardless of who you may think the person is
- Cover web cameras when not in use
- Do not store sensitive/intimate images or information online or on your mobile device
- Use strong passwords and do not use the same password for multiple social media accounts/websites
- Ensure that security settings for social media accounts are activated and set at the highest level of privacy protection
- Report abuse to the various social media platforms, in order to ensure the scammers are held accountable and to prevent further victims.
Anyone who has been contacted by a scammer, or has been defrauded, is asked to contact their local police service or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.
Mental health services are available to everyone across the province, OPP stated. Contact Connex Ontario at 1-866-531-2600 or online at http://www.connexontario.ca/ for resources and information.