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Online Harms: Sextortion

What is critical to know?

An organized attack against youth:

  • 56% increase* in youth being sextorted. *between March – August 2022
  • Cybertip.ca currently receives an average of 168 sextortion reports per month.
  • Cybertip.ca received 600+ sextortion reports in July and August 2022.
  • Typically, boys are extorted for money.
    Girls are extorted for more images.
  • 87% of sextortion incidents reported to Cybertip.ca affected boys.
  • Sextortion demands for money often come from international organized criminal networks.
  • 77% of sextortion incidents occurred on Instagram or Snapchat.
  • Contact often occurs on Instagram, then moves to Snapchat.

What is sextortion?

Simply put sextortion is blackmail. It’s when someone online threatens to send a sexual image or video of you to other people if you don’t pay the person or provide more sexual content.

How does the sextortion occur?

  • Youth (males in particular) are often deceived into believing they are communicating with a young female. The contact occurs over a short period of time, in most cases over several hours but in some cases as little as 20 minutes.
  • It involves an exchange of sexual content, with the “female” often sharing first. In many cases the youth is tricked into sending a sexual photo or video but the youth may also be tricked into exposing themselves or engaging in a sexual act over a livestream and being recorded without their knowledge.
  • Almost immediately, the extorter then demands money. The extorter threatens to leak the content online and/or share with the youth’s friends/family if they don’t comply. It is common for the offender to share screen captures of the youth’s contacts or other identifying information (school, home address) to terrify the youth so they agree to send money.
  • If the youth complies, the extorter will demand more money be paid. The extorters will sometimes barter and accept a lower amount if the youth says they cannot pay. Amounts of money demanded range from as little as $9 (the amount a youth had in their bank account) to $7,500.
  • Payment demands are in a number of forms, including requests for money through online payment providers like PayPal, Venmo, Cash App, etc.; through online gift cards for Amazon, Google Play, Steam, VISA, etc.; or through e-transfer direct from bank accounts.

What are other tactics used by extorters?

  • Offering youth a prize in the initial contact — win money if they send a sexual image/video.
  • Youth being targeted after an older sibling or a friend had been contacted by the same extorter.
  • If initially not complying, the extorter can become more aggressive (e.g. threatening to ruin the teen’s life).
  • Creating more than one account to make it seem like more than one person is targeting the youth.
  • Demanding youth create other accounts on social media for the extorters use in victimizing further youth.
  • Threats to share the sexual image/video with a school or many schools.
  • Creating newspaper articles with false claims about the youth abusing young children.
  • Threats to share the sexual image/video with newspapers, news outlets and TV stations.

What should youth do if they are being extorted?

If someone is threatening to share your nude image or video, there is help:

  • Immediately stop all communication. Deactivate (but don’t delete) any of the accounts you are using to communicate with the individual.
  • DO NOT comply with the threat. In other words, never pay money and never send additional nudes. The situation will NOT get better by doing either of these things. If the youth has paid money, check to see if it has been collected and, if not, quickly cancel the payment.
  • Reach out for help and report it. Tell an adult who can help. Contact NeedHelpNow.ca for support or report what has happened to Cybertip.ca or police in your jurisdiction.
  • Dealing with sextortion is too big for the youth to manage on their own.
  • 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 were sent.

How we can help:

  • Go to NeedHelpNow.ca if you are seeking guidance on what to do next.
  • Report to Cybertip.ca. Concerns involving sextortion are forwarded to police.
  • In many cases, we reach out to services like Instagram and Snapchat to intervene in real-time to get the extorters’ accounts disabled.
  • Cybertip.ca staff work closely with the Support Services team to assist youth in crisis and help the youth/family through the incident.

Resources for youth

Resources for parents and educators