Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline to report the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children, has started to receive reports of a new concerning sextortion tactic. Offenders are superimposing a youth’s face in a video or photo to make it look like they are nude or engaging in a sex act. Then they demand the youth send them money or gift cards, or they will send the video or photo to the victim’s friends and family.
Cybertip.ca is also seeing other concerning tactics, sometimes in combination with the above:
- Offenders will follow the victim’s friends and family on Facebook® or Instagram® as a way to demonstrate they can follow through on threats to share the video or photo if the victim does not comply.
- Offenders are also creating social media accounts using the victim’s name, or a similar name (e.g., Smyth instead of Smith), to share the videos or photos.
- Offenders are utilizing filters available on certain apps that allow them to appear younger than they are on live streams through the app.
These tactics can happen on many types of social media platforms. The following platforms have been noted by people reporting to Cybertip.ca: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat®, Google® Hangouts, Skype®, Omegle™, and Line App, among others.
In a report to Cybertip.ca, an individual said they answered a video call from an unknown person. The offender screen recorded the conversation and edited the victim’s face into a video making it look like they were engaged in sexual activity on camera. The offender demanded money or they would share it on social media.
Prevention tips to talk about
- Discuss with your children the importance of not answering video calls from people they don’t know.
- Explain if they do mistakenly connect over livestream with someone they don’t know, immediately disconnect and do not respond to any renewed attempts to connect.
- When the option is available, urge children to answer video calls with the camera turned off until they, or a parent/guardian, has confirmed the identity of the person calling.
What should you do if your teen has been targeted?
Report it. There is help. Immediately report what has happened to Cybertip.ca or contact police in your jurisdiction. If it is happening to your teen, the person is more than likely doing the same thing to others and this needs to be reported to the proper authorities.
Immediately stop all communication. Log off or deactivate (but don’t delete) any of the accounts used to communicate with the individual. Pay attention to any of the other accounts your teen may have linked to as the user may attempt to contact them there as well.
DO NOT comply with the threat. In other words, never pay money and never send additional nudes. The situation will NOT get better by doing either of these things. If money has been sent to the extortionist, check to see if it has been collected and, if not, quickly cancel the payment. If it has, contact the money service that has been used immediately. Most money services will have a blackmail form you can fill out.
Keep the correspondence. Keep information such as the user’s name, username(s) or email addresses and which platforms they are linked to, information about your own usernames/email addresses on those same platforms, details of any payment request (Western Union® contact details, etc.), a copy of the communications, and any images and/or videos that were sent.
For more information on offender tactics and warning signs, go to cybertip.ca/sextortion.