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Sextortion is a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them images of a sexual nature, sexual favors or money. The perpetrator may also threaten to harm your friends or family by using information they have obtained from your electronic devices unless you comply with their demands.
This type of case is a growing concern in many parts of the globe and affects a broad range of targets, including males, females, minors and adults. With the growing popularity of social media, messaging apps, gaming platforms and online dating, the exchange of explicit material online is far more common. Plus, webcams make it very simple for people to record themselves (or be secretly recorded). The perpetrators use several ploys, ranging from pretending to be a romantic interest, flattery and attention, offers of money or other items of value, or threats to coerce the young person to produce an explicit image.
With the prevalence of sextortion cases, it’s important that everyone is aware of what to look out for. Aside from the psychological and sometimes physical damage it has, a major problem with this type of misconduct is that many cases go unreported because targets are too embarrassed. Sextortion can have devastating effects on targets from all walks of life, and it is easy to become a victim. Online perpetrators might gain your trust by pretending to be someone they are not. They lurk online and record people who post or live-stream sexually explicit images and videos of themselves, or they may hack into your electronic devices using malware to gain access to your files and control your web camera and microphone without you knowing it.
Here are some things to consider to safeguard yourself.
Strongly consider the following if you plan to send compromising and explicit photos or videos:
- What if they screenshot this?
- Would you do this in person?
- Are you unequivocally certain they are who they say they are?
- What if this was shared with someone you did not intend?
- How will your online identity impact your physical identity? You have an online identity like your physical one.
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do not open attachments from people you do not know.
- Turn off your electronic devices and web cameras when you are not using them.
- If you are receiving sextortion threats, realize that you are not alone. Ask for help.
Methods of Sextortion
- Email phishing schemes
- Social media: Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, dating or hookup apps, video streaming sites, etc.
- Hacked accounts
- Hacked webcam.
How to avoid and deal with Sextortion
• Only send intimate videos or photos to individuals you trust, unequivocally, and you know their intentions.
• Use strong passwords.
• Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online, no matter the platform you are using.
• Be suspicious if you meet someone on one platform and they ask to start talking to them on a different platform. For instance, if a person is talking to you on a dating app, and asks for your phone number to verify your identity, or tells you they have bad service.
• Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know.
• Turn off or cover cameras (webcams) when not is use.
• Encrypt your device.
• Use a virtual private network (VPN).
How to report Sextortion and get support
• Report it to the Equity & Title IX office at equity.mst.edu/title-ix/reporting-option.
• University Police is ready to assist. Contact the police at 573-341-4300.
• Many platforms allow you to report bad actor accounts, too. Step up and report these individuals.