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A girl talking to a stranger she met online with her macbook on her bed.

Cybertrace investigators are warning of a new cybercrime pattern that is targeting an increasing number of people: sexual extortion. Perpetrators assume false identities, trick victims into sharing intimate images and then blackmail them with the threat of public release. The impact of sexual extortion is such that the FBI even put put a video explainer to warn the public. What is particularly worrying is that underage teenage boys are increasingly being targeted, prompting several authorities to recently issue warnings. Since forewarned is forearmed, let’s look at sexual extortion and how it works. Most importantly, learn what to do if you or a loved one has been victimised and how Cybertrace can help.

What is sexual extortion?

By now, most people are probably familiar with the term revenge porn. It describes the spiteful, non-consensual dissemination of intimate images or videos, usually by a former partner or lover. While this is of course bad enough in itself, sexual extortion takes things even further. Also known as sextortion or image-based sexual abuse, sexual extortion is a pernicious form of blackmail where a perpetrator threatens to release intimate images of you unless you accede to their demands. These despicable criminals typically want money, further images/videos, or even sexual favours. Due to the highly personal nature of the threat, victims feel scared, humiliated and often unable to confide in others. It truly is a nightmare scenario and perpetrators know how to exploit victims’ fears and vulnerabilities.

What is even worse is an increasing use of sexual extortion techniques by child sex offenders. These criminals target innocent children with the goal of extracting more and more explicit material from them via blackmail. They do this for their own perverse gratification or to produce child sexual exploitation materials to sell to others. Either way, it adds another terrifying dimension to online grooming that parents need to be aware of.

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How does sexual extortion work?

Perpetrators of sexual extortion first establish contact with their victims through various means, depending on their target. Adults are reached via email, social media or dating apps, whereas children are often targeted through image-sharing apps or online games.  Whatever the method, the offender assumes a fake identity and pretends to find the victim attractive. Once they connect, the fake love interest will insist on communicating privately in a sexualised manner. Often, they will send fake explicit images of themselves and then ask their target to reciprocate by sending nude images in return. Some perpetrators might even manipulate their victims into engaging in explicit activity on camera, which they secretly record. Once they have the explicit material they came for, the blackmail starts.

The predator then reveals that they have recorded images or footage of their targets in compromising positions and demands money (or more explicit footage) in return for not posting the compromising images and videos online. Indeed, some criminals even threaten to share the explicit materials directly with friends, family, or work colleagues. Mortified, victims feel helpless and willing to do anything to make the threat go away. The perpetrators, on the other hand, are expert manipulators who prey on and heighten their targets’ fears to extract maximum gain. Some demand an impossibly large sum of money initially, before negotiating with the victim to something they could actually pay. However, even if targets pay up, the blackmail simply continues.

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That’s horrible! Is there anything I can do if I have been the victim of sexual extortion?

According to Cybertrace and authorities such as the eSafety Commissioner, there are several useful steps victims of sexual extortion can take. Firstly, report the abuse to eSafety and, if applicable, any websites/social media platforms that host nonconsensual images or videos. Secondly, and this is crucial, do not give the blackmailer any money or further images/videos of yourself. Instead of stopping the abuse, this will simply encourage them to continue demanding more and more. Thirdly, collect evidence and keep a record of all communication with the blackmailer, especially anything that could identify them (WhatsApp number, Skype name/ID, Facebook URL, Money Transfer Control Number, etc.). Finally, reach out to trusted cyber investigators Cybertrace for the crucial next step: tracking down and identifying the abuser. Don’t let the perpetrator know that you are onto them – instead, Cybertrace investigators can take over all communication for you and turn the tables on the abuser.

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How can Cybertrace help me?

Our staff are passionate about putting their time, effort and expertise into sexual extortion investigations that protect innocent people and expose online predators. In a recent case, Cybertrace investigators helped an Australian family whose teenage daughter had been tricked into sending sexually explicit videos. While she thought these were going to an adolescent acquaintance, the perpetrator was actually an adult man in India. Demanding more and more videos, he threatened to publicly release them if she did not comply. The daughter was mortified, while the concerned parents kept their cool and contacted Cybertrace. Using our investigative expertise and custom-designed tracking technology, Cybertrace was able to identify the perpetrator’s IP address through social engineering. The grateful family could therefore provide these vital details to local law enforcement who were then able to act.

With police forces struggling to keep up with a deluge of reports of sexual extortion, reputable private investigators like Cybertrace are vital in helping victims and their families get justice. We can do the hard legwork of unmasking perpetrators so that you can present the police with a strong case and clear evidence. In our experience, law enforcement is much more likely to take up and prioritise cases that have a solid evidence base. What to do if you or a family member are the victim of sexual extortion? Let our passionate and professional staff conduct a specialist investigation for you. Don’t suffer in silence – contact our team today for a confidential discussion of your case!

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A girl talking to a stranger she met online with her macbook on her bed.

Sexual extortion threats on the rise

Cybertrace investigators are warning of a new cybercrime pattern that is targeting an increasing number of people: sexual extortion. Perpetrators assume false identities, trick victims