New Zealand Police are warning of increasing incidents of ‘sextortion’ where local young people are targeted by offshore offenders.
“This is a global issue where offshore offenders target young victims by tricking them into sending sexually explicit content before blackmailing them with threats to share the content with friends and family unless they pay,” says Detective Senior Sergeant Jodie Lyons.
“While we first started to see this in New Zealand in late 2021, instances of local young victims continue to rise.
“In one very recent incident, a New Zealand teenager could not pay the money he was being blackmailed into sending and the images were shared publicly by the offender.”
The offending generally begins with a direct message sent to the victim on social media.
The victim is then asked to continue chatting on a different app, and the conversation often becomes highly sexualised.
From there the victim is coerced into sharing intimate photos and/or videos of themselves, which are used to blackmail them, with threats to share it on their social media contacts list unless they pay.
In some instances, photos are reportedly doctored by the offender to make the victim appear to be in even more compromising positions.
Offenders can also capture naked or sexual images of the young person while they’re on live stream or video, which is often then part of extortion. This is called ‘capping’.
“We are shining a light on this serious issue to ensure New Zealand young people, their parents and care givers are aware of the risks and remain vigilant to ensure it does not happen to them,” says Detective Senior Sergeant Lyons.
“However, if it does, the best protection a victim has is to come forward and seek specialist support from Police as soon as possible. We will not criticise or blame you – what has happened is not your fault and we are here to help you.”
How to spot this offending
- Meeting on one app, then being encouraged to continue a conversation on a different platform could be an indicator.
- Inconsistencies with a profile or language, and there might be signs that English is a second language.
- Introduction of sexualised conversations.
- The other person may say that their webcam or microphone not working for video calls/chats, so they could be avoiding giving their true identity.
- Avoid sending any more images or videos – even if they are threatening you.
- Remember – once you have complied with their demands there is nothing preventing them targeting you again.
- Save all the online chat, immediately take screenshots. This is important for making a report to the police, we need all the evidence that you can gather.
- Block the profile.
- Report the content to the platform (e.g. Facebook, Snapchat, PornHub) it is on and request the content is removed
- Make a report to Police (via 105) or Netsafe to find out what other options are available to you
For parents and caregivers
- Supervision is essential. This means knowing what your children are doing online, who they are interacting with and what platforms, apps or games they are using.
- Having open conversations, often. The most important tip we can give any parent or carer is to start talking to your child about their online activities.
- Check privacy settings. We recommend parents and carers research and understand app settings, including privacy settings. This could include turning off location settings, setting profiles to private, or turning off chat functions.
- Be approachable if your child needs help. Coming forward isn’t always easy, and children may feel reluctant to tell you about online issues if they believe they will be punished or have their devices taken away. They must know that it is ok to speak to you or any other trusted adult if something doesn’t feel right.
- Long term impact. Offenders will often use tactics such as fear or shame to manipulate young people, and make them feel alienated or trapped, like they cannot escape the situation.These situations can be very distressing and can have long term-impacts, and need to be addressed appropriately. Your child is a victim of online child sexual exploitation, and they need your support.
- Report suspicious behaviour. Seek help and support, and report inappropriate or suspicious behaviour online
Where to report offending
- New Zealand Police: 105 (non-Emergency), or 111 (Emergency)
- NETSAFE: Text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282, Email: email@example.com(link sends e-mail). Call toll free on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723). Online report form at netsafe.org.nz/report. The NETSAFE helpline is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends.