Doesn’t matter where you live, online extortion is a thriving racket.
After two recently reported cases in Greater Trail, the RCMP has issued an advisory about the reality of these sensitive cases, which often involve the sharing of intimate photos.
This first investigation involves a person living in Fruitvale, who police say was targeted by an online extortion attempt.
After developing a relationship with a person on social media, the victim sent a nude photograph to what the RCMP label the “unknown suspect.” Once the photograph was sent, the suspect threatened to post the picture to the victim’s social media accounts unless $500 was transferred electronically.
The victim immediately contacted the Trail detachment and reported the crime.
An officer advised the victim to cease contact with the suspect and not to transfer any money electronically. An officer provided guidance to the victim on how to prevent another incident in the future.
The matter was further investigated, however the suspect was not identified.
“I recently attended an event that provided information on online extortion,” advises Sgt. Mike Wicentowich, Trail detachment commander. “In one reported case, a victim was extorted of $50,000 before the police intervened.”
Wicentowich says, “Remember that you are not alone.”
“Please reach out to the police immediately if someone is attempting to take advantage of you online,” he adds. “Police can help stop the crime from occurring to you.”
One day after dealing with the attempted extortion in Fruitvale, the RCMP received a complaint about an attempted online extortion that targeted a victim in the Trail area.
The victim reported an unknown suspect had intimate images depicting him/her and demanded money. The suspect threatened to post the images online and onto his/her social media accounts.
The victim contacted the Trail detachment and spoke to an investigating officer. The officer advised the victim to block all contact with the suspect, ensure all personal online accounts were secure, and not to transfer any money electronically.
Police say the victim followed their guidance.
During a subsequent investigation, a suspect was not identified.
Furthermore, police say the victim noted that the images were created nine years ago and was surprised the photos resurfaced.
“A common crime today is the exploitation and extortion of victims by using their own intimate photographs however obtained,” Wicentowich advises. “You can best protect yourself by not sending images. Please remember that this kind of material is easily shared and lasts forever once released onto the internet.”
Cybertip.ca is Canada’s national tip line for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children.
Cybertip.ca is just one of the tools that the public can use to help combat online children exploitation. They offer tools, education, and assistance in many areas including sextortion, child sexual abuse, online grooming, support for survivors, and reducing the online availability of child sexual abuse material.
A highlight in this organization is Project Arachnid. Project Arachnid is a victim-centred platform which searches child sexual abuse material. If child sexual abuse content identified, the hosting provider is contacted and requested to remove it. This project has been successful in removing thousands of harmful images from the internet.
Visit cybertip.ca for more information.
“This is a helpful resource for those looking for answers and assistance before contacting the police,” Wicentowich says. “Please note that if you know about a child who is in immediate danger or at risk, call your local police detachment immediately.”
New legislation promises to protect British Columbians against the sharing of intimate images without their consent, a phenomenon often described as ‘revenge porn.’
Attorney-General Niki Sharma tabled the legislation in the gallery Monday (March 6) afternoon.
Central to the legislation is speeding up the process by which courts decide whether intimate images were recorded or shared without consent and order individuals to stop distributing or threatening to distribute intimate images. The legislation will also allow minors to pursue legal actions to stop the distribution of their private images and seek damages.
Sharma said victims are often too ashamed to come forward and those who do often face limited, complex and expensive legal options.
“We are building a path to justice for people to regain control of their private images and hold perpetrators to account,” Sharma said.
Statistics Canada reported in 2020 an 80 per cent increase in cases of non-consensual sharing of intimate images reported to police compared to five years ago. Between 2014 and 2020, 48 per cent of youth victims of non-consensual sharing of intimate images had fallen victim to intimate partners or friends, according to a government release.
With files from Wolf Depner