Annie Collins says 2022 has seen a significant increase in “sextortion” scams, where illicit photos of victims are used as blackmail.
“Cybertip.ca [a national tip line for reporting sexual exploitation of children on the internet], I think, has reported a 150 percent increase in their calls since December, so we know it’s going through,” she says.
Collins, a Community Safety Officer with the OPP, says the victims of most sextortion incidents that get reported are children.
“It’s generally reported through a parent at that point, if the child has reached out,” she says.
“If it’s an adult, we don’t tend to see as much reporting to police.” Collins says that’s because many victims are too embarrassed to come forward.
According to Collins, scammers sometimes target people they know personally, but they often have other ways of finding people to exploit.
“Another common type is through any of the online chat groups and video game chat groups,” she says, “where [victims] believe that they’re interacting with someone who will maybe provide them an image first, to give the idea of being in a one-on-one trust situation.”
Female victims, Collins says, are usually coerced into sharing more illicit pictures, while males are typically pressured to send the scammers money.
If you suspect you’ve been a victim of a sextortion scam, Collins says you should stop interacting with the scammer and save all your conversations with them.
“We recommend, 100 percent, not to comply with any of their threats,” she adds. “Never pay money or send further pictures.”
She says you should report the incident to the OPP, Cybertip.ca, or NeedHelpNow.ca, an online platform meant to help teenagers deal with sextortion, run by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.