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'Sextortion' scams on the rise, say North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP

Scammers create phoney social-media accounts on such platforms as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, convince those who respond that an intimate relationship is possible, then get them to send nude or sensitive images and videos
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Police said the number of such scams in the North Cowichan/Duncan area has jumped by 163 per cent over the past year. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File

North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP are warning the public about an increase in reports of “sextortion” scams.

Police said the number of such scams in the area has jumped by 163 per cent over the past year. Victims are predominantly male and 25 per cent are youth.

Scammers create phoney social-media accounts on such platforms as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, convince those who respond that an intimate relationship is possible, then get them to send nude or sensitive images and videos of themselves.

Once the material is sent, the scammers demand money to keep it from being passed along to family and friends or to the public.

Prosecution of those responsible can be difficult, since they use techniques to hide their identity or might not even live in Canada.

Police said sensitive personal material should not be shared over social media and parents should monitor their children’s social-media use closely.

“The details revealed in the case of Amanda Todd’s death highlight the tremendous impact online abuse can have on mental health,” said Cpl. Jennifer Morgan. “Social-media awareness will prevent further victimization of our community by online scammers.”

Amanda Todd was a Port Coquitlam youth who died by suicide in 2012 at the age of 15 after she was harassed and cyber-bullied for years by a man in the Netherlands. Last month, the man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the sexual extortion.

jbell@timescolonist.com

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