Have you ever received a friend request or direct message from someone you don’t know on social media? Of course, if you have an active social media account, chances are you probably have. Have you ever developed a romantic or sexual relationship with someone via social media? Have you ever been a victim of sextortion?
Sextortion, as defined by an FBI agent, is, “a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money. The perpetrator may also threaten to harm your friends or relatives by using information they have obtained from your electronic devices unless you comply with their demands.”
In Idaho, the Boise Police Department has alerted the Better Business Bureau about an increase in sextortion cases among college students at Boise State University, according to the Idaho State Journal.
In most cases of sextortion, women and girls are the targets of perpetrators. However, in this instance, the students being targeted are male. The Idaho State Journal reports that females of a similar age are beginning conversations on social media with male students that turn sexual quickly. Intimate photos and videos are sent by the young males and the supposed females on the other end threaten to release the explicit content unless they are paid off, demanding thousands of dollars. In one case, a victim’s video was shared on Facebook (It has since been reported and taken down).
Before the age of the internet, sextortion occured more commonly in classrooms where teachers would convince students to preform sexual acts in exchange for grades or with landlords demanding sex instead of rent. These types of sextortion probably still occur to this day, but the speed and accessibility that social media provides has made it easier for these acts to occur online. Even worse, social media’s power has also made it easier for cases to be swept under the rug.
In the cases of the college students in Idaho, the police department suspects that there may be more victims that have yet to come forward. With such a sensitive subject, many may have chosen to pay or comply with the perpetrator instead of risking the embarrassment that would come if their private photos and videos were to be shared publicly on social media.
So, what can you do if something like this happens to you?
Once the person messaging you demands money or any other form of payment, ignore them. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t let your feelings for this person cloud your judgement. If this person really did want a relationship with you, they wouldn’t be blackmailing you. Don’t message them back with threats either because it will probably backfire.
Gather and Preserve Evidence
It’s best to document all of the messages you’ve exchanged with this person, especially the threatening ones. Take note of any information that may help identify the perpetrator like their username, facebook URL, or Money Transfer Control Number.
Notify Facebook, Instagram, or whatever medium this person has contacted you on and report them.
If this is occurring via social media, block the user. It’s not hard, just click the button. Tell your friends to block the user too. You might even want to consider temporarily deactivating your account. Just make sure you take photos or screenshots of the messages in case they get deleted in the process.
Change Your Password
In case your account may have been breached, make sure to change your passwords on all accounts that might be affected and if you use the same password for everything, change them all.
Contact the Authorities
File a report with your local FBI office or police department.
Seek Legal Counsel
Contact an attorney as soon as possible, and the sooner the better, before it spreads. The lawyers at RM Warner Law know exactly how to help victims of sextortion seek justice. Contact RM Warner Law today.