Sextortion - online blackmile
14 january 2020
Do you know what your teenage kid is doing online? Young people think that they are already adults and that the world belongs to them. They want to impress the group, and easily succumb to its pressure. Young people sometimes lack common sense and good judgement. Their lives are increasingly moving into the online environment. All this combined with development of the technology leads to the appearance of pathological phenomena on the Internet.
What is sextortion?
The term appeared as early as in the 50s in the USA. It is a derivative of "sexting" - sending messages containing pictures, erotic and pornographic movies. It was created by combining two words: sex and extortion. This dangerous phenomenon has also reached Poland.
Thousands of teenagers send their intimate photos to newly met people on the web. According to the National Research Institute (NASK), every tenth teenager admits that they have sent an intimate picture to a person they met on the web at least once in their life.
Fraudsters know how to inspire trust and take advantage of our weaknesses. Sextortion is a form of sexual abuse that involves sexual favour without using physical violence, but blackmail.
How does it work?
It starts with an innocent conversation on the web, an invitation on a social or dating site. Fraudsters make contact with various people and, by maintaining that contact through the network, identify vulnerable victims. They can impersonate an attractive blonde looking for consolation after an ended relationship, or a handsome bodybuilder with the sensitivity of a poet. It all depends on the potential victim. We are happy to share our worries, dreams and expectations online, so a clever impostor can easily determine the profile of their potential victim. The victims are most often lonely people who seek support and understanding, and especially those who identify themselves with the stories they are told. Initially, ordinary photographs are exchanged, which, with the development of the relation, are bolder and, as a result, intimate. Fraudsters can send "their" crafted photos and videos to encourage new friends to exchange.
Once they get intimate photos or movies they begin to blackmail their victims. It is hard for young people to admit that they made such acquaintances and sent their photo. They are afraid of what their parents and friends will say. They can't handle such pressure. Blackmailers take advantage of the teenager’s shame and often extort money. They act smart and take into account the financial capabilities of a teenager. The criminal feels elusive and the victim lives in fear. Such stress affects their social contacts, learning, and sometimes leaves a mark on their psyche for life.
If the victim is unable to deal with the problem alone, they seek help. The police, after receiving this kind of notification, should intervene. However, in practice, most perpetrators remain unpunished, because the victims with fear and shame, keep those situations to themselves - they prefer to pay and wait it out.
How should we react?
First of all, we should keep the evidence. If the blackmail has taken place via a social networking site or application, notify the administrator. Do not delete the account, just deactivate it. Do not delete the correspondence with a blackmailer to have an evidence for law enforcement authorities. Blackmail is a crime that is sanctioned by Article 191 of the Criminal Code. In the case of soliciting minors for sexual purposes, the penalties are set out in Article 200. In addition, Article 202 determines penalties, among others, for possessing, storing and publishing pornographic materials, also involving people under 15 years of age.
Support from loved ones and the environment is extremely important. Do not judge. Listen. Support!