“I have nude photos of you. If you don’t want me to send them to your whole class, transfer €500 to this account by tomorrow!” When supposedly private recordings or information are suddenly used to blackmail someone, we talk about sextortion. And this can affect virtually all Internet users.
Sextortion is made up of “sex” and the English “extortion”, meaning blackmail. The term describes an Internet phenomenon in which users are blackmailed with nude pictures or videos. In doing so, the blackmailers proceed in two different ways:
The blackmailers in sextortion cases work with their victims’ sense of shame. The people concerned want to avoid at all costs that their most intimate pictures are shared uncontrolled online with a huge audience. Many often do not resist blackmail out of fear and shame. At the same time sextortion can affect everyone.
Because the perpetrators seek contact via common messengers and social media platforms, where there is generally a lot of communication between them, there is often no suspicion when contact is first made. Blackmailers often take a long time to gain the trust of their victims.
Mostly young men are the target of sextortion – but there are also increasing cases of women being blackmailed. Sometimes even children are threatened.
In some cases, it is not money that is demanded, but further sexual acts – then the crime is not only extortion, but also sexual assault or even rape.
The best precaution against cybercrime is always: knowledge and caution. Inform yourself about communication risks on the Internet and educate your child in this regard. Stay in conversation with your child about their online actions and encourage them to be vigilant. Create a trusting basis for conversation and encourage your child to confide in you or an adult caregiver if he or she is being harassed. Make it clear to him that it is not your child who has done something wrong, but the perpetrator. Discuss the following rules with your child as needed:
If it is already too late, you can take action: Sextortion is a criminal offense and should be reported to the police. The more people who report such cases and the more screenshots there are to document the extortion, the greater the chance that perpetrators will be caught. The people affected are not to blame. But if they do not defend themselves out of fear and shame, they only protect the perpetrators! Seek help and advice, for example here:
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