A frightening trend!
- An online perpetrator sent Ryan a romantic picture of a young female and asked for one of him in return. Immediately after Ryan shared an intimate photo of his own, the cybercriminal demanded $5,000, threatening to make the photo public and send it to Ryan’s family and friends. Hours later, police said, a panicked Ryan took his own life.
- Brian Montgomery lost his 16-year-old son after he took his own life when he was extorted with explicit imagery. His teen son reportedly received a message from an Instagram account, modeling an “attractive” young girl, that lured him into communication after claiming to be a mutual acquaintance. Eventually, Walker opened a video chat with the perpetrators, who recorded him partaking in sexual activity. Shortly after, they pressed him for $1,000, his father said, using the imagery as leverage.
- “The Monster knew exactly what to say and what to post to get into a 15-year-old’s brain.” Once the hacker had a picture of Braden, Argiro-Markus said her son was threatened and told to pay the predator $1,800 or “else the monster” was going to release it among other pictures the hacker took from Braden’s Instagram account. “The messages go on and on for 27 minutes,” she wrote. “The last five minutes of B’s life, he said over and over again, ‘I am only 15, why are you doing this to me? I am only 15, you will ruin my life.’ It is a thread that in a way I wish I never read, but here we are.” At 11:28 a.m., Braden died by suicide.
Victims of Sextortion Committing Suicide
The FBI reports an explosive increase in teenage boys being targeted online and extorted for money through sextortion.
Sextortion has gained popularity among predators because it is something that predators can do through any online site, app, gaming, messaging, or social media platform. Sometimes the predator will make first contact by sending a threat saying they already have a revealing photo or video and are going to share publicly if the teen doesn’t send additional photos. More often, it starts with a teen thinking they are communicating with someone their age, a peer, who is interested in forming a relationship.
After they have gained the trust of their victim, the predator will ask for a sexual or risqué photo or video. Once they have received it, they will then threaten to publish it or share it with the teen’s family and friends if they don’t send money or additional photos.
These predators know where to reach kids, which ones to target, and how to talk to them on their level. One person the FBI put in prison for this crime was a 40-year-old man who previously worked as a youth minister so he could learn how teens talked to one another.
Unfortunately, many teens feel there is no way out of an embarrassing situation like this. The shame, confusion, and fear of this getting out will cause teens anxiety, depression, and in many cases, could lead to suicide.
Here are a few suggestions for teens to prevent Sextortion or actions to take if it is happening to you:
- Be very selective about what you share online and especially be wary of strangers. Block or ignore messages from those you don’t know in real life.
- Any content you create online can be made public. Nothing actually “disappears”
- Be aware that people can pretend to be someone different online. Videos and photos on their profiles could be fake.
- Ask for help. If you are receiving messages or requests online that don’t seem right, go to an adult immediately. Screenshot any messages and then block the sender.
- If you are in a sextortion situation, reach out to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or report the crime online at tips.fbi.gov. Agents see these cases all the time and have helped thousands of young people. They want to stop the harassment, arrest the predator, and get young people the support they need.
- Remember – you are NOT the one in trouble and you are NOT alone. Although it may feel hopeless, there are professionals available to help you and your family. If you are thinking about suicide, are worried about your child, or friend, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States by dialing 988.
Free OffenderWatch Family Safety App
Sexual predators who are convicted are listed on the sheriff’s sex offender registry. Parents can download the free OffenderWatch Family Safety app to see registered offenders who live nearby. Parents can track their children as they come and go from home, school, or a friend’s house and see if sex offenders live nearby them and get alerts from the Sheriff’s office if a registered offender moves into their neighborhood.
Visit these links for additional resources and articles:
Contact the Suicide and Crisis Hotline: https://988lifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/