MSP warning parents of online sexual extortion scams targeting minors

MARYLAND- Maryland State Police officials have seen numerous reports of minors being caught up in online sexual extortion scams.

These scams involve a suspect contacting minors by social media, such as Facebook. The chats then progress with the suspect user asking for illicit pictures of the minor. If the minor sends those pictures, the suspect user will demand money from the minor and if that money is not given they’ll tell the victim they will share their pictures with other people.

An internet safety specialist we spoke with said throughout the past few years, during COVID, there have been increases in all different scams like this one, according to data from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“We are anticipating maybe almost 10,000 tips this year just because their children are spending more and more time online, you know they are making poor decisions, maybe sharing images with boyfriend, girlfriend, sharing an image that they found online with a friend,” Joe Dugan, Internet Safety Specialist of MSP, said.

The Criminal Enforcement Division – Eastern Region urges parents and guardians to talk to and educate their children about the importance of online safety; specifically, the following points:

  • When contacted by an account you do not know, it is very possible the account does not belong to who they say they are;
  • Although an account might seem harmless at first, the nature of a chat can quickly become threatening and intimidating;
  • DO NOT click on unknown links / URLs sent by unknown accounts;
  • DO NOT take illicit photographs of yourself;
  • DO NOT send illicit photographs of yourself online;
  • If you are contacted by an unknown account, it is best to ignore the message, report the account to the social media platform, and block the account from being able to view your profile.
    Internet Safety Tips for Parents:
  • Place computers in a common area of the house and not bedrooms
  • Educate yourself about digital devices and the Internet
  • Make reasonable rules and set screen time limits
  • Reinforce the guiding rule “Don’t talk to strangers”
  • Put accounts in your name and know your child’s passwords
  • Don’t let your children give out personal information online
  • Be aware of other digital devices your child may be using
  • Review the use histories or logs of your digital devices to see where your children have been online
Categories: Local News, Maryland