06 May Sex scammers targeting WA teens, cybersafety expert warns
Teens are increasingly falling for “sextortion” scams where they are blackmailed after sending explicit photos, a cybersafety expert has warned.
Former police officer Susan McLean, who visited Wesley College this week to speak to parents about keeping their sons safe online, said teens from private and public schools were equally affected.
“They’re organised criminal gangs that work out of eastern Europe, Russia and South Africa,” she said.
“And they basically trawl social media and set themselves up to look like kids and just bombard people online and some take the bait.
“The profile is either a ‘hot’ girl or boy, depending on who they’re trying to target, and eventually convince them to share naked images or video, and then the demands for money start within five minutes of getting the picture or video.”
Ms McLean said she had not personally dealt with WA students affected by the issue but had advised students from NSW, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.
“Sextortion has been around for a long time, but most of the victims were, historically, adults,” she said. “But we’re seeing kids in the middle of high school being caught up, so it’s something that kids need to be alerted to.”
She said she knew of students who had received demands for up to $5000.
“The minute you pay, that becomes a deposit because they can see that you’ve got money, so our advice is you never pay,” she said.
Ms McLean said parents should try to get young people to limit their online communication to people they know, rather than talking to people they know of, or think they know.
“What we want is to make sure that they’re not even putting themselves in harm’s way by talking to people online they don’t know,” she said.
Wesley College deputy head Nathan Jessup said social media and online environments provided many learning opportunities for children.
“However, there are myriad associated pitfalls and risk that children, parents, teachers and schools are grappling with,” he said.
“While Wesley College endeavours to put in place a range of mechanisms to ensure the safety and welfare of students in a cyber realm, ultimately students live in an unfiltered world with boundaries that extend well beyond the school gates and timetabled day.
“It is vitally important that schools work in partnership with parents to assist children to develop the necessary moral, social and intellectual foundations and skills to navigate this domain.”