Authorities have warned that sexual extortion cases involving teens are on the rise, with Australia experiencing a global trend of offenders predominantly targeting teenage boys to send sexual images before being blackmailed for money.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the number of sexual extortion reports increased from almost 600 reports in the first quarter of 2022 to more than 1,700 in the first quarter of this year with 90% of all reports coming from males.
What is sexual extortion?
Sexual extortion, also known as sextortion, is a form of online blackmail where someone tricks or coerces you into sending sexual images of yourself and then threatens to share the images unless you comply with their demands. Usually, these demands are for more images, payment or sexual favours, but a victim could also be used as a money mule, where you are told to get money from others and forward it onto the criminals.
Offenders may even attempt to capture sexual images of a young person while they are on live stream or video, sometimes without their knowledge. Sometimes known as ‘capping’.
Offenders are manipulative in making you feel there is no way out of the situation, including threatening to share your content online with family, friends and acquaintances.
Fear, coercion and manipulation keep the crime going. In addition to the threats and coercion, victims often feel like they have done something wrong and will be punished by parents or carers or prosecuted by police if their actions are discovered.
Source: Australian Federal Police
Many parents & carers can understandably feel overwhelmed when it comes to their child’s online activities, not knowing who they are interacting with or how safe they are. But online safety skills can be learned.
ThinkUKnow Australia, have provided some handy resources to help prevent online child sexual exploitation:
- This Parent & Carer Social Media Starter Kit is a guide to making sure your child’s Social Media accounts are secure
- Ensure your child’s devices are secure when online gaming
- General tips and strategies
The Australian Federal Police also noted a spike in cases over school holiday periods, so this may be a good time to take action.
What to look out for?
Sexual extortion is common on dating apps, social media, gaming apps or instant messaging apps. Exercise caution when interacting with unfamiliar individuals online, here are some red flags to look out for:
- Unsolicited friend or follow requests or random adds from people you don’t know.
- Sudden sexualised questions or conversation.
- Instantly receiving sexual images from a fake profile who asks for the same from you.
- Getting a direct message on one app, then being asked to continue chatting on a different app.
- Messages may have typos or poor grammar
- They might say that their webcam or microphone are not working for video calls/chats.
- They promise to delete your content.
What should victims do?
Offenders will make you feel like you will be in trouble for what has happened to keep the crime going. It is important to know that you’ve done nothing wrong. Here are some initial steps to follow:
- Avoid sending any more images or videos.
- Do not pay. Once you send money the first time, they will ask you to pay again.
- Being blackmailed can be stressful and upsetting. You don’t have to cope on your own. It’s a good idea to tell a friend, family member, co-worker or someone else you trust, so they can help you deal with the situation.
- Collect evidence – immediately take screenshots or recordings from the conversation, note down links, usernames, PayID identifiers that you sent money to etc, this will be important for making a report to the police.
- Block and report the fake profile on the platform itself if possible.
Who can help?
If you have already paid the offender by money transfer, you may be able to cancel it if you act quickly.
Australian Mutual Bank members should get in contact with us immediately on 13 61 91.
If your child has been the victim, it is important to remain calm and reassure them that it’s not their fault and that there is help and support available.
If the victim is in immediate danger, call Triple Zero (000), Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000, or your local police.
To report online sexual behaviour including sexual extortion towards:
Individuals under 18 - report it to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE)
Individuals 18 years or older - report it to any platforms or services where the blackmailer contacted you. If an intimate image or video is shared, or if the platform doesn’t help, you can report it to eSafety.
If you or someone you know has been impacted and may need ongoing help, there are support services available. These avenues of support are available to help, listen and believe.