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Police warn parents about youth sextortion through image sharing

Kingston Police are warning parents about an increasing and serious trend involving youth being extorted for money.

There has been a concerning rise in teenagers reporting issues surrounding video communication with adults posing as teenagers, according to a report from Kingston Police, dated Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. On platforms that allow users to communicate by video, offenders are secretly recording teenagers exposing themselves and then threatening to share the sexual content if they don’t pay money (often hundreds of dollars or more) to the individual, Kingston Police say.

According to the report, the scammer will usually start by befriending the victim online and then proceed to convince them into engaging in “intimate private moments” with them via Facetime, Skype, Zoom, or other video based social media platforms. The scammer then claims to have recorded the encounter.

Kingston Police say attempts to extort the victim include the scammer threatening to send the video or pictures to the victim’s contacts through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media platforms unless they receive some form of payment. Often, even once a payment has been made the scammer will continue to demand additional money, according to the release. The thought of being exposed in a compromising situation to their contacts, family and friends can cause a great deal of undue stress to the involved victims who often decide to comply with the scammer’s demands, according to police.

While many teens understand the dangers associated with recording and sharing sexual images and videos, Kingston Police say they may not be as aware of the risks associated with live video feeds. With relative ease over live streaming, anyone can capture a still image or video of a person sexually exposing themselves, all without the other person’s knowledge, according to the release.

Parents need to have regular, open dialogue with their teen around this topic encouraging teens to seek parental support in situations like this. Kingston Police say it is also important to talk to teens about never complying with threats online, since in most cases this will only make matters worse.

“Parents should openly discuss the importance of their children coming forward if they or their peers are facing concerning online situations,” Kingston Police stated in the release. “It is also important to discuss the risks associated to live streaming and agreeing to do something sexual online. Parents should advise their teens that under no circumstance is it ever a prudent decision to share intimate images online. Parents are strongly encouraged to take the time and learn more about ways to increase your teen’s safety online by visiting www.needhelpnow.ca and the Internet Safety section of the Cybertip.ca website.”

As Kingston Police has received numerous reports of both male and female youths being extorted in these sextortion scams it is important for citizens in the community to be extremely mindful in regards to their online activities and who they decide to share videos and images with. It is never wise to share intimate images online. Kingston Police say the scammers are adept at their craft and sharing “intimate private moments” online could prove to be a very costly and embarrassing endeavor.

If you or one of your family members has been extorted please contact Kingston Police at 613-549-4660 or visit our website and submit an online report.

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