Cybertip.ca Alert: Think twice before accepting help with removing images online for a fee
Cybertip!ca®, Canada’s tipline for reporting online child sexual abuse and exploitation, warns parents that victims of sextortion are at risk of additional harm by organizations or individuals that claim they can help get intimate images and videos (commonly known as nudes) back or removed for a fee.
Reports made to Cybertip.ca and shared by victims online reveal that these individuals and groups, sometimes referred to as “recovery scammers” and often self-advertised as hackers or cybersecurity and reputation management firms, may:
- Offer services for people who have been targeted by a sextortion scam for a fee
- Claim to hire private investigators
- Have sophisticated-looking websites that say they have prevented someone’s intimate images from being leaked, brought sextorters to justice, protected personal information, or secured online accounts
Several sextortion victims have reported to Cybertip.ca that they have been victimized by self-described hackers or firms claiming to be cybersecurity experts.
Example 1: A firm claimed to have hacked a sextorter and “captured screenshots” of the sextorter’s messages to the victim’s contacts and friends. The victim’s friends said they had not been contacted by the sextorter. The firm continues to contact the victim, trying to pressure them into purchasing the firm’s services by sending fake updates about the blackmailer.
Example 2: Another company charged a victim $1,500 for 30 days of assistance and told the victim the sextorter would spread rumours that they were a pedophile if the victim did not act. That same firm told a victim they recommended dragging out the conversation with the sextorter as long as possible until an “expert” could contact them. The expert told the victim they could not help them unless the victim paid around $300–500.
Based on victims’ feedback, Cybertip.ca DOES NOT recommend accepting or seeking out these services. Reports often suggest they lead to further victimization or don’t have positive outcomes. Given how difficult it is to determine if a service is reputable or legitimate, we strongly advise you to proceed with caution if you decide to use these types of services. Sexual images and videos of individuals under 18 are also generally illegal, so platforms or websites hosting such content should be motivated to remove them and you should not need to pay any third party firm for help with that. Contact Cybertip.ca for help.
What can I do if my teen is being sextorted?
- Stay calm and report it —
- Immediately report what has happened to Cybertip.ca through an online report form or via the toll free number at 1-866-658-9022, or contact police in your jurisdiction.
If your teen is not fully comfortable with making a report, please reach out to NeedHelpNow.ca to connect with support workers who can assist.
- Immediately have your teen stop all communication —
- Deactivate (but don’t delete) any of the accounts your teen is using to communicate with the individual.
- Keep the correspondence —
- Keep information such as the person’s username(s), social media account information, a copy of the communications, along with any images and/or videos that your teen sent.
- DO NOT comply —
- In other words, never pay money. If your teen has paid money, check to see if it has been collected and, if not, quickly cancel the payment.
- Get help with removing a sexual image/video —
- If the image or video has been posted online, Cybertip.ca analysts may be able to help get the material removed from the internet. They can also help you remove it yourself, if you prefer.
- Provide support —
- Cybertip.ca analysts can provide practical steps to help regain control over the situation, including connecting youth to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (which operates Cybertip.ca) support services who work extensively with teens, schools, and families to navigate incidents of sextortion and exploitation. They can help with everything from emotional support and safety planning to connecting you with therapy or victim services, if needed.
If your teen is in contact with recovery scammers, please contact Cybertip.ca.
If you are a parent looking for more information and resources about sextortion, visit cybertip.ca/sextortion.