ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — St. Pete police are warning citizens about an increase in online sexting extortion cases.
The agency said it investigated 34 sextortion cases involving both minor and adult victims between Jan 1. and June 1, twice the amount of cases that were reported to police during that period last year.
Police said most of the victims had met someone on a dating app, and were encouraged to share nude photos after romantic exchanges.
“We’re talking about social media platforms, we’re talking about gaming platforms, and even dating platforms,” said Detective Henry Snowden with the Special victims Unit.
After sending nude photos, their fake romantic partner would threaten to post the photos publicly to their friends and family members unless they pay up.
“As soon as they send it, the suspect will start asking for money,” said Detective Snowden. ” I’ve had victims who have spent thousands of dollars to try to stop these pictures from getting exposed.”
“These cases are different from the so-called “revenge porn” in that, in most
cases, there isn’t an in-person relationship and the online partner is a scammer,” St. Pete police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said.
To avoid this situation happening to you, the FBI recommends these awareness and safety practices online:
- Be selective about what you share online.
- Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block and ignore messages from strangers.
- Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not always proof that someone is who they claim to be.
- Be suspicious if you meet someone on one game/app and this person asks you to start talking on a different platform.
- Be in the know. Any content can be public and nothing “disappears” online.
- Be willing to ask for help. If something doesn’t seem right, tell someone.
If this is happening to you or someone you know, you can reach out to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or report it at tips.fbi.gov.