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Sextortion scams on the rise 

An escalating sextortion scam that began in February ended with the suicide of a 17-year-old high school senior, marking a horrific end to what law enforcement is calling an explosion in sextortion scams.

Someone posing as a girl struck up an online conversation with California resident Ryan Last. Soon, the girl sent a nude photo and tricked him into sending one. Within minutes, the cybercriminal demanded $5,000 or he would share the image. They lowered the ransom demand to $150. 

“Unfortunately, Ryan ended up taking his life because of the extreme pressure put on him by the person demanding money and threatening him,” reported Pauline Stuart, Ryan’s mother. “He ended his life rather than have the pictures distributed on social media. He believed it would destroy his reputation, and he was terrified of what his friends and family would think.”

Feeling no way out, Ryan took his own life. 

According to the FBI, the bureau in 2021 received 18,000 sextortion-related complaints targeting young boys like Ryan in the US, amounting to more than $13 million in losses. More, an analysis by Canada’s Cybertip.ca reported sextortion scams increased by 62 percent in 2021.

Protecting against sextortion scams

First, parents should immediately report what has happened to Cybertip.ca or contact the police in your jurisdiction.

Second, deactivate any of your accounts to communicate with the individual. 

Third, keep information such as the person’s username(s) and social media account information. Make copies of the communications, along with any images or videos sent.

Finally, reach out to a safe adult so they can help you get through this situation. 

Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645), Centre for Suicide Prevention (1-833-456-4566), or Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, is suffering from mental health issues. Read about other scams here

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