Head up parents! There are some new crime stats out of the UK that may make you reconsider what kind of risks your teens may encounter online.
The UK National Crime Agency reported this week that cases of webcam extortion for financial gain are up over 100% this year, with 864 reported cases vs. 385 last year, and the year isn’t over yet. We haven’t seen similar statistics reported here in the U.S.
The real eye opener from these numbers (for us) was that in 95% of the reported incidents, the victim was male. The largest population of victims was men aged 21 – 30, but boys between 11 and 20 form a “substantial portion.”
We, and parents we talk to, have assumed that females are more at risk of this type of threat, but these UK statistics tell another story.
The agency implies that normal boy-girl online relationships are not what are driving these numbers. Rather:
- Professional criminals are posing as available females online in an attempt to lure young men into a relationship
- Bad actors are posing as gay men online, again attempting to establish an intimate online relationship with a gay man
In either case, the victim is enticed to send a nude video to the perpetrator. The perp then uses the threat of posting that video publicly online, or sending it to the victim’s relatives, friends or even his boss, as a means to extort money.
This isn’t just a UK phenomenon. A Minnesota man was sentenced to 38 years in prison this month after pleading guilty to sextortion in 155 cases involving teenage boys over a four-year period. In some cases he posed as a young girl; in others he claimed to represent a modeling agency.
A spokesperson from the UK’s National Crime Agency describes this as a large global “business” where the bad guys are often overseas and do not feel like they at risk of being caught.
Risk of being exposed or potential financial loss isn’t the only downside here. The UK reports that webcam extortion has led to 4 victims committing suicide.
We didn’t think that catfishing would become a big business, but perhaps it has. The one and only defense against this is to make sure you know, and your teens know – without a shadow of a doubt – who you are talking to online before committing any intimate acts.
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