COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Parents: Do you know who your kids are talking to online? Do your kids know who they’re talking to? Both the FBI and the Better Business Bureau have reported an increase in sextortion crimes and scams, across the country.
Ashley Gibbard with the BBB of Eastern Michigan told Better Call 4 that the scams often start with a random friend request on social media.
“From someone claiming they go to the same school, or they have similar interests,” said Gibbard. “And then, what ultimately ends up happening is once that teen either strikes up a conversation or friends that person, that person ends up sending compromising pictures of themselves, or what that teen thinks is of that other person, and they ask for some in return.”
The scammers will then start to make threats.
“‘Pay me some money, or else I’m going to share these with the internet.’ And unfortunately, even if the teen does pay up in a sense, the blackmail continues,” Gibbard said.
That can have serious, even deadly repercussions. The BBB said it first heard about the scam when a 17-year-old in Michigan took their life after falling victim to it. Now, the agency wants to spread the word, to make sure that doesn’t happen to any other family.
“There could be more of this happening out there, but we thought it was best to get in front of it. Even with a few reports, that’s too many in our opinion,” said Gibbard.
You and your teen can take steps to get in front of it, too.
“Don’t friend somebody, or accept them on any social media platform, that you haven’t met in person,” Gibbard said. Also, use care with what you share.
“That’s exactly how they get you, is they go off of what you post online and then create an account and kind of tailor it towards you to get you to respond to them,” said Gibbard. “keep everything as private as possible.”
If something doesn’t seem right, say something to law enforcement or other public agencies.
“And then we can warn others to prevent it from happening further.”
Gibbard also said for parents or guardians to have that open dialogue with your teen, try to monitor their accounts as best as you can, and let them know it’s okay to speak up.
Click here for additional details on the scam and advice on how to avoid it.