17,000 ‘sextortion’ complaints filed this year across the nation; police offer advice

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The FBI issued a warning in September about just how common sextortion has become.

“Sextortion is when you have cyber criminals or other people online who attempt to get money from people, especially blackmailing them to send money to not release intimate pictures that they claim to have,” according to Lt. Allen Larsen of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Part of the prevalence of sextortion: The pandemic.

“I would say an exponential increase in the past few years,” Larsen said. “We saw a huge spike when COVID first onset with more people being in their houses, and more people being online.”

It happens through a hacked email or uncovered password. Next, the threat to release private pictures that the suspect might — or might not — have.

“We strongly recommend and encourage people not to give in to any demands,” Larsen said.

A lot of sextortion involves a bluff by someone trying to get money.

“Half the time when they make these threats that they’re going to release these intimate pictures, they actually don’t even have them,” Larsen said.

They’ll use your contacts — friends, family, colleagues — to dial up your anxiety.

“‘I’m gonna send your stuff to all these people,’ and they’ll give you a list of your contacts.”

And you don’t always get what you pay for, police said.

“If the victim gives them money, the very next thing the suspect is going to do is ask for even more money,” Larsen said.

These are not people you can trust.

“Eventually what happens is once they’re done siphoning all your money, they end up sending the pictures to all your contacts anyway,” Larsen said.

The Better Business Bureau said another popular sextortion ploy is the “romance scam.”

“If you do have intimate photographs of yourself, never put them online,” Larsen said. “Never put them even in social media accounts, or anything else like that.”

If racy pictures are sent to someone you met online, or a partner … and things sour … the threat is to release, email or post the pictures.

There have been nearly 17,000 complaints of sextortion so far this year across the nation, according to police.

“No matter how much you think you can trust the person you’re sending it to now, you never know what’s gonna happen down the road,” Larsen said.

If this does happen to you, police have some advice: Don’t pay, don’t delete and don’t click on links. Contact police. This is extortion and harassment.

“It is a criminal charge,” Larsen said. “You’re not allowed to illegally send pornographic images of somebody else without their consent.”

Preventive measures include changing passwords frequently, installing security software and never opening email attachments or links from people you don’t know.

Police say there’s only one way to guarantee you’re safe from sextortion.

“The only really 100% guarantee to never get sextorted would be to never allow yourself to be videographed in any type of an intimate act,” Larsen said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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