Law enforcement: Online ‘sextortion’ targeting teens, children in Utah

Oct 13, 2022, 11:07 PM | Updated: Oct 14, 2022, 7:10 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Heber City police issued a warning this week about the potential for online “sextortion” schemes to target children as state investigators noted that the trend was on the rise.

On Tuesday, the Heber City Police Department posted on Facebook about the scam.

“The scam is a direct message, be it Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or any other form of social media,” the post read. “The scammers pose as the same age as the victim and interact in a flirtatious (manner) to invite the victim to conduct a live stream or send photos. These photos or live streams become sexual and eventually involve the victim being naked, sending naked photos or performing a sexual act. After the victim has provided this information to the scammer, they end the feed and send them a message that they have to pay a certain amount of money or they will share this video/photo with everyone on their friends’ list.”

On Thursday, Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Commander Alan White said it was a trend concerning to his office.

“It’s devastating for a child to be in that compromised position,” White told KSL TV in an interview.

White said his office had seen an increase recently in teenage and even prepubescent boys being targeted by the scams and extorted for money.

Historically, he said girls were more likely to fall victim.

“Typically in the past, they were extorting minors for additional content,” White said. “If there were inappropriate pictures of a female child, they would try to extort that child for additional images or specific poses and that was kind of the currency was that additional content.”

White acknowledged the emergency of mobile payment apps like Venmo and Cash App and the increase in children who possess smartphones has only made the scams more viable as the perpetrators target younger victims.

White urged children who have been approached or fell victim in this matter to tell a parent, trusted adult or law enforcement. He also said parents should have a frank discussion with their children about the dangers and also maintain regular access to kids’ phones and electronic devices.

“They need to have those open conversations and it’s a constant theme across the nation,” White said. “Parents need to have that conversation and access to that device — that cell phone — where they can review what their children are involved in.”

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Law enforcement: Online ‘sextortion’ targeting teens, children in Utah