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(This email builds upon a LinkedIn post by Paul Raffile, which was shared by Stephen Burke yesterday. Please do what you can to share this with your network, and with any young people in your circle.)

 

What we need to know:

  1. Criminals are using fake accounts to send hundreds of thousands of follow requests to young people on Instagram (or Snapchat, or other online platforms).
  2. The moment the victim accepts, the criminal takes screenshots of the victim’s Follower and Following lists.
  3. Then, the criminals lure the kids into sending them an explicit / nude photo.
  4. BOOM! Now, the relentless blackmail starts. “I have your nudes and everything needed to ruin your life… unless you send me $300 right now.”

Some victims have killed themselves because of the embarrassment and stress.

According to the FBI, “Victims are typically males between the ages of 14 to 17, but any child can become a victim. [In an 18-month period up to March 2023, they] received over 13,000 reports of online financial sextortion of minors [primarily boys] and led to at least 20 suicides.”

Credit to 25-year-old Nathan McErlean for going public with his story: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-66736462

 

What we need young people to know:

  1. Criminals are using fake accounts to send hundreds of thousands of follow requests to people on Instagram (or Snapchat, or other online platforms).
  2. If you accept the follow request, the criminals will get access to all of your Followers and Following lists.
  3. On Snapchat, they can send what appear to be “live” photos and videos with the Red and Purple icons, but are actually pre-recorded videos. The videos are VERY convincing.
  4. They can screenshot and save images and videos – Even on Snapchat, they have ways to ensure you don’t realise they are doing this.
  5. They will try to lure you into sending them an explicit / nude photo.
  6. If you do this: They will threaten to share this with all of your family, friends, and followers if you don’t pay them.
  7. To prevent this happening to you: Be wary of friend / follower requests – Don’t accept follower requests from people you don’t know. Do not share explicit / nude photos online.
  8. If it happens to you: You are not alone. Honestly, you are not alone. Lots of people of all ages get scammed like this every day. It’s called ‘sextortion’. This crime is rampant, and it is carried out by professional criminals. It’s stressful. It’s horrible. But this will pass, and there is help available. Talk to an adult who you trust, or to the person who shared this with you.