Calgary police warn of 48 sextortion cases, most targeting teen boys

Since the beginning of the year, Calgary police say they’ve had close to 50 reports of sextortion cases and now warning kids and teens to be careful about who they send images to.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where online scammers — often using the disguise of a phony social media profile — establish a connection with potential victims and express romantic interest, according to CPS.

Read more: The latest sextortion tactic, how to help your kids prevent and report it

The tactics can take place on many social media platforms. From speaking to victims and their families, Calgary investigators believe most cases stem from Instagram or Snapchat, where the scammer poses as a young woman and sends a private message.

In Canada, it’s illegal for anyone to solicit, send or consume sexually explicit images or video footage of minors.

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As the conversation between the scammer and victim progresses, the scammer will ask for intimate photos and videos of the victim.

If the victim complies, the scammer then demands money, threatening to share the explicit images with the victim’s friends list if the payment is not received.

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As of May 30, Calgary police said they’ve had 48 reports — mostly targeting teenage boys. As a result, the Calgary Police Service cybercrime team launched several investigations.

“We believe these crimes are vastly underreported,” Staff Sgt. Graeme Smiley said.

Read more: Child luring and sextortion cases online spike since start of pandemic

“We are thankful for the courageous victims who have come forward and encourage others who believe they have been victimized to do the same.

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“We are asking parents and caregivers to have honest conversations with their children about online safety and how to seek help if kids find themselves in dangerous situations.”

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Police explained it’s hard to “fully investigate” online sextortion cases as scammers often live in different cities or even countries.

That said, police remind the public of the importance of reporting the crime so they can be tracked and others can be warned to help prevent further scams.

Earlier this year, the RCMP shared the following tips while warning of an increase in sextortion in central Alberta:

  • Do not accept friend requests on social media from unknown people
  • Do not share or send intimate images of yourself with anyone – if you aren’t okay with the whole world seeing it, do not send it
  • Use privacy settings on social media and keep personal information to a minimum
  • Trust your instincts, if anything about an interaction makes you feel uncomfortable, end the conversation immediately

Read more: Red Deer RCMP issue warning about increase in sextortion reports

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CPS encourages anyone who believes they are a victim of sexual exploitation to report it to the police by calling the non-emergency line at 403-266-1234.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously online to Crime Stoppers.

For more information on offender tactics and warning signs, go to cybertip.ca/sextortion.

With files from Karen Bartko, Global News

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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