Child extortion incidents involving Australian boys quadrupled over the last year, leading authorities to issue an alarming warning to parents and carers.
Online predators, often overseas, have been grooming, tricking, and coercing kids into providing sexually explicit photos and videos, with young boys being increasingly targeted, according to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE).
Money is then demanded from the victim under the threat that the photos and videos will be shared.
It has led ACCCE to take the “unusual step” of releasing police intelligence to warn Australian parents and carers about the emerging risk.
ACCCE Commander Hilda Sirec said while blackmailing minors for sexually explicit images and videos were not new, it was previously “very rare” that police received reports about offenders demanding money.
Camera Icon reported child extortion incidents quadrupled over the last year. Credit: Supplied
“Tactics can vary, but child sex offenders commonly pose as girls and befriend boys via social media platforms, image-sharing apps, or online games,” she said.
“These predators reveal they had footage of the child in compromising positions and demand money in return for not sharing the vision with family and friends or posting it online.”
She said online predators often negotiated with the victim before demanding more payments.
“We have seen predators initially demanding an impossibly large sum of money, then negotiating with the victim on a lower amount they could pay,” Ms. Sirec said.
“Once that money was paid – either by bank transfer, online game, gift cards, or even cryptocurrency – the predator would demand even more money.
“The victim’s age does not deter them; they care only about the profit they can make.”
Families have been told to watch out for any warning signs, which include inconsistencies with an online profile or language, being asked to continue a conversation on a different platform after a meeting, and a person claiming they cannot do a video or phone call because their camera or microphone is not working.
Any victims are urged to make an immediate report to the police and collect any evidence, such as screenshots.
They should also speak to someone they trust for advice and support, change their passwords and review their online privacy and security settings.
Camera IconAustralian Federal Police has urged families to look for any warning signs. Credit: Supplied
Ms. Sirec said these crimes have “devastating effects” on children and their families.
“These offenders are very manipulative and will threaten and frighten children into getting what they want, including telling victims they will be in trouble with law enforcement if they speak up,” she said.
She said it is important for parents to educate their kids about online safety and encourage them to report any offenses.
“We are appealing to parents and carers to talk to their children about online safety, how to recognize suspicious behavior online, and speak out if they have been targeted,” Ms. Sirec said.
“If your child is or has been a victim, reassure them that it’s not their fault and that help is available.
“By reporting what has happened, they may help us catch an offender and prevent other children from being harmed.”
If you think a child is in immediate danger, call triple-0, Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or your local police.
Public members who have information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime stoppers at 1800 333 000.