Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Play it internet safe today

Today is Safer Internet Day – New Zealand Police is taking the opportunity to educate the public about sextortion, especially targeting younger males.

“Sextortion is online blackmail that involves someone persuading you to send them sexual images or videos of yourself and then threatening to share them with others unless you pay them money, agree to send more photos or even move funds for them,” says Detective Sergeant Dan Wright.

New Zealand Police received 618 reports of sextortion between 2020 and the end of 2022. Of these, 54% of all victims were males under the age of 25.

The youngest reported victims of sextortion in New Zealand during this period were two 10-year-old children.

“While this is a global issue, as this crime is committed virtually via a victim’s phone, gaming console or computer, New Zealanders are just as likely to be targeted as anyone else,” says Detective Sergeant Wright.

“We know the offending is far greater than what has been reported to us, and we anticipate there are many victims who haven’t yet come forward to Police.”

Offenders, who are generally based offshore, know what they are doing and are organised.

“This is organised crime committed by offenders who often pose as someone similar in age to the person they are talking with. They will rely on threats and aggressive behaviour to get you to send them what they want – it is important to remember you are not to blame and there is help available.”

New Zealand Police is also aware of instances where organised criminal groups have recruited people to act as money mules for sextorted funds.

“The mule, sometimes knowingly, sometimes not, uses their own bank account to transfer or move ‘sextorted’ funds to offshore accounts,” says Detective Sergeant Wright.

“This is a way the offender can move their illegal gains and cover their tracks.

“While Safer Internet Day is the perfect opportunity to remind people to be vigilant with their online interactions, this needs to be on your mind every day as you go about your virtual life.”

HOW TO SPOT 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 is not working for video calls/chats to avoid giving their true identity.

FOR VICTIMS:

  • 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 okay 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)

111 (Emergency)

NETSAFE

Text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282

Email: help@netsafe.org.nz(link sends e-mail)

Call us toll free on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)

Online report form at netsafe.org.nz/report

Our helpline is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends.

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