Teen Boys Are Being Blackmailed by Scammers.
Scammers have a scheme for every age group, because every age group today congregate somewhere online, looking for connections, information and more.
For teenage males, that “more” is often connections with new female friends online.
And that’s what scammers are exploiting these days. According to a story in the Wall Street Journal in November of 2023, teenage boys are being targeted in a scam that turns into blackmail, extortion and in extreme cases leads to suicide.
Law enforcement agencies and organizations focused on child safety and protection report a large increase of these “online sextortion” attacks. And, they say, it’s taken a new twist.
Parents need to be aware of what kids are doing.
In today’s world, parents can no longer hope their kids are doing the right thing online. Parents need to be aware of the countless online dangers for kids and decide how they want to be involved. (Read our article on what parents can do to help their kids stay safe.)
Previously, pedophiles would connect with kids online and get them to send a nude photo of themselves. When the child complied, the predator would ask for more photos (more revealing as well) and threaten to expose the child if they didn’t cooperate.
“Send us money, or else.”
Now, however, the attackers are less concerned about more photos than they are about squeezing dollars from their victims, usually from services like PayPal or Venmo.
It’s a scam that’s working and growing drastically, and rapidly according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC):
- In 2020, they received less than a dozen reports of this type of scam.
- In 2022, the number of reports exploded to over 10,000 reports of these scams targeting kids.
- As 2023 wound down, the NCMEC had received more that 12,000 reports.
Other surveys support those numbers, including one conducted by the parent company of the online company, Snapchat. They asked teenagers and young adults if they were familiar with this scam. The results are eye opening.
Of the 6,000 persons surveyed, 65% reported the following:
- They personally new of someone who was a target of victim of such a scam.
- The attackers obtained either naked photos or secret, private information.
- The scammers threaten to share the private photos or information with the victim’s friends or family.
Most of the victims, the survey revealed, were teen boys.
Social media is at the heart of the issue.
This type of crime didn’t exist a couple of decades ago. With the exponential rise of both the internet and social media, these crimes are now part of the landscape and pose a serious threat to teens and a major problem for parents. (See our article on parental control software.)
Another factor that makes this scam work so well is the target group themselves—teenage boys. They don’t help their own cause when they are lured by sexual content or see sexual photos.
According to the executive director of the NCMEC, Lauren Coffren, boys are easier to lure and trap using sexual imagery than girls. She explains what happens when a boy sends a nude photo to a scammer.
From raging hormones or raging fear.
It goes from what seems like an innocent exploration to a dangerous situation pretty quickly, Coffren says.
As soon as the teen sends his photo, the message they get back, immediately, says “I’m going to ruin your life if you don’t pay me.” You can only imagine the level of fear that goes through that boy.
Sadly, Coffren says, more than a dozen boys in the U.S. have committed suicide because of a scam and threat such as this.
Snapchat, Instagram and other apps.
Scammers don’t play by any rules, so they lurk on all the social media apps and use the platforms to target kids for attack. They may even create accounts with adult-themed content to lure victims in the first place.
It’s a losing battle. In fact, Instagram and Meta, its parent company, have been accused of allowing inappropriate content to flourish, despite being aware of the effect on kids and the dangers created. In the cited Wallstreet Journal article, an Instagram spokesperson said they remove content and accounts that don’t meet their guidelines for content.
However, it’s known that many apps that kids use (even if they lie to open an account) are notorious for loopholes, flaws and poor monitoring, allowing kids to be exposed to predators, scammers and dangerous content. WhatIsMyIPAddress.com covered the topic of inappropriate apps for kids in an article.
Again, there is not safe zone on the Internet where young children are concerned.
In fact, just the opposite is happening. It’s getting worse.
Follow the Easy Prey Podcast
For more content on avoiding scams and staying safe in the online world and more, following the Easy Prey podcast, hosted by Chris Parker, CEO of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com.
*WSJ. Personal Journal/Family&Tech: Julie Jargon. Nov. 21, 2023
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