Coquitlam RCMP, school district warn about rise in sexual extortion reports

Police in Coquitlam, B.C., are warning families about a rise in sexual extortion cases, in which a criminal persuades youth to send them sexual images before using the material as blackmail for money. (Jacy Schindel/CBC - image credit)
Police in Coquitlam, B.C., are warning families about a rise in sexual extortion cases, in which a criminal persuades youth to send them sexual images before using the material as blackmail for money. (Jacy Schindel/CBC - image credit)

Police and other community leaders in Coquitlam, B.C., are warning parents and their children about a rising number of reports about sexual extortion in the area.

RCMP released a statement Friday saying the detachment has seen "a large number of money-motivated sextortion reports where youth boys and girls are being targeted."

"The long lasting impacts of a sextortion case can continue with the victim for quite some time, once you put out any information," Cpl. Alexa Hodgins said in an interview.

"We're really hoping that we can do the preventative piece and stop these crimes before they happen."

Sexual extortion, or sextortion, happens when criminals gain their target's trust and persuade them to send them a sexual photo or video of themselves. The criminal then uses the material as blackmail, often threatening to send the footage to the victim's family or friends if they don't send payment.

"These are highly sophisticated and well organized criminals that use the nudes and videos to intimidate and coerce the victim, who's most often a child — and the suspect really relies on the fear and shame to extort the victim out of this," said Hodgins.

"The youth can be male or female, so girls and boys, but typically this ranges between the age of 12 to 18 and that's because that's when they're introduced to online social media platforms," Hodgins continued, referring to TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook as examples.

RCMP release tips for parents, kids

Cybertip, the national tip line for reporting online sexual exploitation of children, said there was a 56 per cent increase in the number of youth reporting that they'd been extorted nationwide between March and August last year.

"The specific data from our detachment, or even city and region, is about the same," said Hodgins.

The Coquitlam School District sent a memo about sextortion home to families late Thursday.

"When youth are involved, they are often too afraid to speak to their parents and may attempt to deal with the extortion themselves. We want those victims to know it is okay to ask for help by speaking with an adult as well as reporting such incidents to police," the memo read.

RCMP released tips for preventing sextortion to parents and children.

Top tips for parents include being open about online behaviour, rather than allowing computers in private areas, and monitoring children's online activities regularly. Children should speak up if they're being harassed and talk to a trusted adult about what happened.

"Please contact your local police agency. We will investigate without judgment," it read.