The sextortion scam: targeting Australian teens with sick text messages

A warning has been issued to Australians as an increasing number of children are being targeted by a disgusting, sexually charged text scam.

Reports of sextortion cases involving Australian teens are mounting as authorities reveal the horrific impact of this despicable criminal behaviour.

Sextortion, often referred to as sextortion, is a form of online extortion in which the victim is tricked into sending sexual or compromising images to the scammer.

The scammer then issues a series of demands to the victim, often including sending large sums of money, and threatens to share the photos unless they comply.

Adolescents became prime targets for sextortion, with boys becoming the predominant targets, although any child of any gender could be targeted.

Scammers use a fake profile, usually posing as a teenage girl, and contact potential victims via direct messages on social media.

Once the victim engages in a conversation, the scammer usually asks them to continue talking on a different app.

This often happens when the conversation gets too sexual and the victim is forced to send sexual images.

Once the perpetrator receives these images, they will then use them to blackmail the victim, threatening to share them with their friends and family unless they pay.

There have been cases where perpetrators have photoshopped images to make the victim look more dangerous.

After the victim pays the initial amount, the offender will continue to extort as much money as possible before moving on to the next victim.

During 2022, the Australian Center Against Child Exploitation (ACCCE) received more than 100 reports each month of online scams targeting Australian teens.

These scams can be so upsetting to victims that they can lead to self-harm or even suicide.

NSW Sex Crimes Squad Leader Jane Doherty said The Daily Telegraph These perpetrators prey on teenage victims’ fear that they will get in trouble, with many choosing to pay the blackmailer rather than go directly to the police.

“Once you pay the money, they keep coming to you for more. Go to your local police station and report it because you are not in trouble.”

Anyone who believes they have been targeted by a sextortion scam should immediately stop the chat, take screenshots of texts and social media profile, block the account and report it to ACCCE.

Overseas criminal groups behind the rise

In December last year, AFP revealed the closure of more than 500 Australian banks, financial services and cryptocurrency accounts linked to sextortion syndicates targeting Australian teens.

Operation Huntsman, run by AFP and the Australian Transaction Reporting and Analysis Center (AUSTRAC), led to the closure of bank accounts linked to international crime syndicates.

The operation, which began in June 2022, targeted bank accounts that were sending money defrauded from distressed sextortion victims to offshore accounts.

Similar action is pending against hundreds of other people as investigators continue to work with the financial sector to obtain details of more than 1,000 Australian bank accounts and financial services that facilitate the flow of money out of the country.

AFP commander Hilda Serek said data showed more than 90 percent of the victims were male, with the majority between the ages of 15 and 17, but police had seen victims as young as 10.

“We are seeing a global trend of offshore crime syndicates targeting adolescents, mostly young men and boys, to force them to send sexually explicit content and then blackmail them,” she said.

“The financial action we’ve taken with Operation Huntsman so far is just the beginning; we will target and disrupt these criminals operating abroad, wherever they hide.

“AFP’s partnership with AUSTRAC and our relationship with international law enforcement partners around the world means that these networks are not immune from our reach.”

Sexual gratification has traditionally been the main motivation for criminals behind sextortion crimes, however, the offshore criminal gangs driving the alarming new boom that police are seeing are seeking to profit financially from victims as well.

AUSTRAC National Director, Law Enforcement and Industry John Brewer said these criminal groups are primarily motivated by the financial gain they can make by exploiting vulnerable members of society, such as young Australians.

“As Australia’s financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC is uniquely positioned to identify suspicious financial transactions supporting crimes, including sextortion,” he said.

“The skill and agility of our analysts enables AUSTRAC to track funds as they cross borders and financial and digital ecosystems.”

Mr Brewer said the AUSTRAC financial intelligence is helping to uncover “material flow of proceedings”, including the identification of banking and financial services accounts linked to sextortion.

“AUSTRAC also benefits from our close partnership with industry to increase the ability of industry partners to identify and report suspicious transactions that indicate sexual exploitation to AUSTRAC,” he said.

Originally published as Australian teens targeted in sex blackmail scams

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