RCMP in Campbell River, B.C., say there has been a rising number of “sextortion” crimes in the Vancouver Island city over the last year.
Sixteen reports of sextortion crimes were reported in 2022 after none were reported the year before, police say.
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Sextortion crimes are often described as a suspect using social media to lure an unsuspecting victim into a fake online relationship, convincing them to send intimate photos or videos which are then used to blackmail the victim.
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“Campbell River RCMP are urging the public to educate themselves and their family members of the dangers of sharing intimate images,” said Sgt. Chris Voller.
“These targeted behaviours appear to be increasing, we need to have these conversations to ensure we protect ourselves and our loved ones.”
According to Campbell River RCMP, local men between the ages 16 and 30 have been the main target for criminals for these types of crimes.
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Police offer the following tips to stay safe while online:
- think before posting any information as it is “instant, public, and permanent”
- do not accept friend requests from unknown people
- use privacy settings and filters to limit public information broadcasted on social media
- trust your instincts when conversing online — if something feels uncomfortable, end the conversation
RCMP say if anyone receives a threat of blackmail, they should stop communicating with the other person “immediately,” not to comply with demands for money or additional images and keep records of all correspondence to help report the incident to police.
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Campbell River’s sextortion issue coincides with much of the country, according to Statistics Canada.
Data released Aug. 9 shows police-reported extortion cases in Canada rose by nearly 300 per cent in the last decade, but the crime significantly rose during the pandemic.
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“These concerning increases are being facilitated by social media platforms and other electronic services providers,” said the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s executive director, Lianna McDonald, in a news release. “It should be a wake-up call.”
Cybertip.ca, a national tip line for reporting online child sexual abuse, said it has received “an unprecedented volume of reports from youth and sometimes their concerned parents about falling prey to aggressive sextortion tactics,” amounting to about 300 online extortion cases a month.
A review of the 322 sextortion cases Cybertip.ca received in July found that when gender was known, 92 per cent of them involved boys or young men.
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The crime gained national attention almost a decade ago when 15-year-old Amanda Todd from Port Coquitlam, B.C., died by suicide after posting a video where she used flash cards to describe being tormented by an anonymous cyberbully. It has been watched more than 14 million times.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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