Sask. police say online 'sextortion' involving kids is a 'growing concern'
SASKATOON -- Sgt. Shawn Stubbs says he’s seen an increase in all crimes involving exploitation of children over the internet, including sextortion.
Sextortion is when someone threatens to leak nude content if a user doesn’t send money or more sexual images or videos.
“Once they get one picture, they want more,” said Stubbs, Saskatchewan’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit Coordinator.
“It’s a growing concern. With us, all our numbers are up, so everything has increased."
Cybertip, the national tip line for reporting online sexual exploitation of children, says is has seen an 88 per cent increase in overall reports.
“I think it’s really alarming for us as an organization,” director Stephen Sauer said.
Saur said part of the increase includes a spike in child sextortion reports.
Regina police are investigating two recent cases of sextortion involving adults.
In both cases, the victims received Facebook friend requests. A conversation ensued and then moved to a different social media platform to share videos and pictures, according to police.
During video chat and image sharing, the victims were encouraged to expose themselves. Police said the user then told the victim the video and images were saved and would be shared if they don’t pay.
According to police, in both situations, the victims transferred money.
Regina Police Service Sgt. Casey Ward, head of the VICE Unit, believes online crime is increasing as a result of the pandemic.
“A lot more people are at home, a lot more people are on social media,” Ward said.
“It’s a tough time for people because they’re feeling lonely, isolated and are utilizing social media, trying to connect.”
Police are warning people to be cautious of who they interact with online, and to remember: once an image is sent, you lose control over who sees and saves it.
“We’ve seen this in some high school cases where a photo gets out there, and even if we’re able to take it down or off the internet, you really never know how many people have downloaded that image and saved it,” Ward said.
“To make sure no one will ever see it again is virtually impossible.”