Calgarians, especially young men, are being warned to watch out for sex dump scams, as Alberta’s joint police force says hundreds of people in the southern part of the province have been targeted this year.
The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) Internet and Child Exploitation Unit issued the warning this week, saying they have been inundated with cases since March, saying more than a hundred southern Albertans have been victimized.
“Our unit has dealt with more than 100 cases, but the sad reality is that we know the numbers are much higher. There are children out there who have become victims, but are also too afraid or ashamed to seek help and resources,” said Det. Steve Brighton in a news release issued Thursday.
ALERT said sexual extortion scams usually occur when a perpetrator befriends their teenage victim online through social media and usually pretends to be a woman from a neighboring community. They will begin to create a promising relationship and send sexually explicit photos to the victim and demand similar images in return. Once the sexually explicit photos are returned, the perpetrator demands payment and says they will share the images with the victim’s family and friends or share them online if the victim does not comply. Payment is required in the form of bank or credit card information or through gift cards.
Police say the majority of these scams take place over Snapchat and Instagram with two-thirds of victims being boys between the ages of nine and 17, with many suspects located overseas. ALERT issued a warning of this type of scam in March and reiterated this week that awareness needs to be raised to help stop its occurrence.
“It’s heartbreaking to see firsthand the devastating impact these types of offenses have on children, and our colleagues in the US have linked sexting to more than a dozen suicides,” said Det. Dean Jacobs in a news release. “ICE units worldwide are working together to investigate, but we really need help raising further awareness and making sure these conversations happen in homes and schools.”
The joint police service says young Albertans should watch out for and be cautious when receiving unsolicited friend requests and sudden sexualized questions. They should also be wary when someone starts a conversation on one app and asks to move to another or if they say their webcam or microphone is broken during calls.
ALERT said victims should immediately stop all communication with perpetrators if they become involved in the scams and that victims should not comply with the threats. Victims are then asked to report the scam to the social media operator and reach out to a trusted adult. They should also download all correspondence information and contact the local police.