Child sex offenders abroad are increasingly targeting Australian boys in sexual extortion schemes online in which the boys are groomed to produce child abuse material that is subsequently used to extort money, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) have warned.
- Police say child sex offenders pose as girls and befriend boys on social media and share explicit material
- The boys are tricked into sending explicit material in return which is then used to extort money from the victims
- Police say such cases are not new but reports have more than quadrupled in the past year
The AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) said the number of reports involving boys had “more than quadrupled between mid-2021 and this year”, which appeared to be part of a global trend.
ACCCE Commander Hilda Sirec said while it was not new for children to be forced into creating sexually-explicit material, it was previously “very rare” for police to receive reports of offenders demanding money from them.
“Tactics can vary, but child sex offenders commonly pose as girls and befriend boys via social media platforms, image-sharing apps or online games,” Commander Sirec said.
Once a connection had been formed, the boys would receive explicit images — purportedly of the new friend that were, in fact, police said, often obtained from another victim.
The boys were then told to send explicit photographs or videos in return.
The ABC has sought comment from the AFP on the numbers rise in 2022.
“These predators reveal they had footage of the child in compromising positions and demand money in return for not sharing the vision with family and friends or posting it online,” Commander Sirec said.
“We have seen predators initially demanding an impossibly large sum of money, then negotiating with the victim on a lower amount they could actually pay.”
Police said that victims would be coerced into paying predators by a variety of methods — including bank transfers, gift cards and cryptocurrency — and then threatened again into paying even more money.
“These crimes have devastating effects on children and their families,” Commander Sirec said.
“These offenders are very manipulative and they will threaten and frighten children to get what they want, including telling victims they will be in trouble with law enforcement if they speak up.”
ACCCE encouraged guardians to speak with their children about online safety and said common warning signs included:
- Inconsistencies with an online profile or language
- Meeting on one app, then being encouraged to move onto another platform
- The person claiming their microphone or webcam was not working for video calls
“If your child is or has been a victim, reassure them that it’s not their fault and that there is help available,” Commander Sirec said.
“By reporting what has happened, they may help us catch an offender and prevent other children being harmed.”
The ACCCE shared the following advice for victims of this crime:
- Do not send more images/videos
- Collect evidence such as screenshots
- Make a report to police
- Speak to a trusted person for advice and support
- Change your passwords and review privacy settings
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