Do you ever stop to second-guess yourself before sharing personal images on the internet? It may be time to re-think your online presence. Is your privacy and reputation at stake?
Reports of “sextortion” in Grande Prairie have prompted the RCMP to caution internet uses against being overly open with personal info on social media.
Several reports have surfaced of fraudulent friend requests via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and dating sites. The offending profiles often direct victims to direct messaging platforms where they will coercively request intimate images and videos. They may then demand victims send money, lest their private pictures are shared publicly with contacts, friends, and family.
Recently, more cases of sextortion have been reported in southern Alberta. Sgt. Shawn Graham of the local RCMP stated that in these instances, perpetrators will follow the target victim’s family and friends, making their profiles seem legitimate: “Through our local analyst at the detachment, we were able to see that. We’re also (seeing) a number of complaints just towards the end of June and into July, where these social media platforms were used to extort money or attempt to extort money, from individuals.”
Sextortion can also refer to a broader series of sexual exploitation on the internet. Some victims experience more severe blackmail, which extends to their personal, professional, and financial lives. In certain cases, victims may also be blackmailed into performing sexual acts either in person or on video. In essence, sextortion is an abuse of power, enacted when the victim feels most vulnerable and exposed. It is a form of corruption, and the RCMP is working to increase awareness.
The RCMP statement also added that internet uses can avoid these situations by not accepting friend requests from unknown individuals. Individuals who experience this issue should save a record of their virtual conversations before deleting and blocking the accounts. Then, report accounts and profiles to the police.
It’s also always a good idea to be careful when sharing intimate or sexual media over the internet. Graham stated: “Things can quickly turn when they become personal or become sexual,” said Graham. “It’s extremely risky to send nudes or live stream sexual acts. You can easily lose control over what happens to it.”
Anyone can become a target for sextortion via social media and dating sites.
For more information on sextortion and to learn about red flags and warning signs, visit the following resources: