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Police warn of huge jump in “sextortion” scams in Cowichan

Online sex scams have increased in the region by 163 per cent since last year
Police warn of “sextortion” cyber scams. (Citizen file photo)

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP is issuing a public warning regarding an uptick of reported “sextortion” cyber scams.

In the last year, reports of these online scams have increased by 163 per cent in the North Cowichan/Duncan area.

“The details revealed in the case of Amanda Todd’s death highlight the tremendous impact online abuse can have on mental health,” said Cpl. Jennifer Morgan of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP General Investigation Section.

How it works is that scammers create fake social media accounts on such platforms as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to “befriend” their victims.

The scammers then convince victims who may believe they are fostering an intimate relationship to send nude or sensitive images or videos of themselves.

Once these images or videos are received, the extortionist then demands money from the victim under the threat that they will send the compromising material to friends, family or members of the public.

Victims may feel fear and shame as the result of these sextortion scams that may have long lasting impacts on mental health.

Victims are predominately males and 25 per cent are youth.

The investigation and prosecution of these online offences is difficult as scammers often use techniques to protect their identity or may not even live in Canada.

Police are encouraging the public to use safe social media practices and to refrain from sharing nude or personally sensitive images and videos.

Parents or guardians should closely monitor their children’s social media.

“Social media awareness will prevent further victimization of our community by online scammers. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Morgan.