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Police urging caution after reports of “sextortion”

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Parents are being asked to talk to their teenagers about the personal and legal consequences of sharing intimate pictures. Grande Prairie RCMP is warning the community against sharing intimate images and content after three reports of “sextortion” have been reported this month alone. Two of the reports involved youth.

Sextortion is considered a form of exploitation that involves threats to share intimate and compromising pictures, videos, and messages online. Victims are often lured into an online relationship, then convinced to do sexual acts on camera or take intimate photos.

The victim is later told their photos or videos will be released publicly unless they pay. Police say, in some cases, the victim might be asked to send more explicit images.

The RCMP argues sharing intimate content online is never a good idea as it leaves the sender vulnerable to potential exploitation. It may also be a criminal offence, depending on the circumstances, especially when young people are involved.

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Authorities add good ways to protect from sextortion include:

  • Don’t accept ‘friend’ requests from strangers;
  • Do not engage in online chats with people you don’t know;
  • Carefully consider who you are sharing explicit videos and photographs with;
  • Deny any requests to perform an illicit act over the internet;
  • If you get such requests, stop all forms of communication with the other person;
  • Don’t comply with any threats;
  • Disable your webcam or any other camera connected to the internet when you are not using it. Hackers are able to obtain remote access and record;
  • Consider using public profile photos that do not fully identify you;
  • Take further steps to improve the security of your social media profiles. Keep your friends list private and ensure your profile and photo albums are not open to the public.

If you have been a victim of this type of incident, report it to the Grande Prairie RCMP or your local police detachment. If you have information regarding a youth whose intimate pictures or videos have been shared, please visit needhelpnow.ca or cybertip.ca.

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