Incidents of sextortion of teenagers for cash increased 40 per cent in the last six months.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, 120 sextortion-related complaints were filed this year. Nearly half of the victims were boys, with many of them approached on game chat rooms.
Sex predators extort teens for cash after getting their hands on the target’s explicit photographs or webcam videos.
In some cases they sell the images to porn sites. But they usually move on to another victim if they don’t get paid.
Toronto Police Const. Victor Kwong said sextortion victimizes young people twice, once for the pictures and then for cash.
“It’s became an even bigger monster with cellphones and social media,” Kwong said.
Even if victims share their pictures and videos consensually, Kwong said it’s a crime when the images are posted or re-distributed. The predators can be charged with possessing and distributing child pornography, as well as extortion.
Third year University of Guelph-Humber psychology student Sonia Pinto said she hadn’t heard of sextortion and doesn’t think most students know about it.
“I think it’s a topic that should be brought up more,” she said, adding that she’s unsure what she would do in that situation.
Amanda Todd’s suicide in 2012 was directly linked to the bullying she received after photos of the 15-year-old British Columbia girl surfaced on the Internet.
A 35-year-old man in the Netherlands is accused of coercing her into sending images of a sexual nature.
Todd was blackmailed after refusing to send more photographs.
Todd tried to get help by posting a video on YouTube with flashcards telling her story of self-harm, drugs, and alcohol.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre advised teenagers who have been victimized or know anyone else who has been approached by a predator to contact police.