Children as young as 10 are being targeted for sexploitation by sophisticated international criminals.
The online blackmail involves scammers persuading victims to send sexual images or videos of themselves and then threatening to share them with others unless they pay up.
Over the past two years, 618 sextortion complaints have been made to police.
Of these complaints, 54 percent were males under 25.
“The information we do have suggests the majority of the people targeted are men or males of all ages,” Detective Sergeant Dan Wright told Checkpoint.
“The information I have is there are groups of people offshore and they are organised in how they do it. They also recruit sometimes local people knowingly or sometimes not, using their own bank accounts to transfer, move sextorted funds.”
Anyone with an online profile was at risk, Wright said.
“Victims are not to blame, they’re not alone and police want to help.”
It was important victims did not pay anything and that they stopped communicating with the scammer, making sure to take screenshots of the chats or photos, he said.
“Paying the money doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll stop, it gives them an opening to keep going and keep demanding the money.”
Parental supervision was essential to prevent this type of thing happening, Wright said.
Parents should have open conversations with their children about what they were doing online and check privacy settings of apps and games, he said.
“Coming forward isn’t always easy, particularly from a young person to an adult and they need to know that they’re okay and they’re not going to get in trouble, because they’re not going to get in trouble.
“Often there’s long term impacts, offenders will often use tactics such as shame to manipulate young people, make them feel alienated or trapped and that they cannot escape their situation.”
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz