Overseas Gangs Target Boys with Sextortion

International crime gangs are impersonating children online to blackmail Australian kids as young as seven into stealing their parents’ identity documents and banking logins, police have revealed. More than 300 cases of “sextortion’’ of children and teenagers are being reported to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) every month, in a sickening trend that has resulted in self-harm and suicides. Overseas crime gangs are impersonating teenage girls online to trick boys into sending sexual “selfie’’ photos, using Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and instant messaging services. The criminals quickly use the photos to blackmail the boys into sending money, gift cards or even the details of parents’ driver’s licenses, passports, or bank accounts. Acting Commander Frank Rayner, of the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE), yesterday said organised crime gangs were targeting kids as young as seven to steal their pocket money or gain access to parents’ data for identity theft. He said some children were so ashamed and distraught that they had self-harmed or suicided.

Criminals could take just 20 minutes to groom a child and steal money or documents online, he said. Acting Commander Rayner said 90 per cent of victims were teenage boys, and many of the offenders were based in Nigeria and other African countries. “We have seen cases where young people have been asked to provide photographs of parents’ drivers licenses or Medicare cards, details of logins for other accounts such as banking or even ATO (Australian Taxation Office) and MyGov account details,’’ he told media sources. “Predominantly we’re seeing early teens … but we have seen victims as young as seven years old.’’ Acting Commander Rayner said police believed that only one in 10 victims reported the crimes – meaning that 3000 Australian children could be groomed and blackmailed every month as criminals threaten to send their intimate images to family, friends or police. “When we talk about sextortion, we’re really referring to online organised syndicates of offenders, and it’s largely offshore, predominantly from Africa,’’ he said.

“It’ll generally start through a young person being online, and they may receive a friend request. “It can be someone purporting to be a friend, or friend of a friend, or someone they know through a school group or a sporting group. “They build a rapport with the victim … the conversation is taken offline from social media to a messaging app, and then images are exchanged, and money requested from the victim within 20 minutes.’’ Acting Commander Rayner said the criminals were not using the images for “sexual gratification, but something to hold over the young person, to get them to provide money’’. “What we see is kids online accessing bank accounts, using small amounts of money to purchase online gift cards or gaming vouchers, which are then provided to the offenders,’’ he said. “Whilst the amounts of money might not necessarily be large, it is quite confronting for the young person involved, especially when they provide an amount of money … and the offender asks for more and more money.’’ Criminals are also demanding that children film or photograph themselves or other children, to provide child sexual abuse material for pedophiles.

Acting Commander Rayner urged victims to report the abuse to the ACCCE. “Sextortion can escalate in a matter of minutes, but remember it is not your fault and when you speak up, we will believe you and support you,’’ he said. Kids Helpline, run by Yourtown, has counselled 280 children who are victims of sextortion over the past year. Yourtown chief executive Tracy Adams urged the parents of victims to “stay calm and reassure them that it’s not their fault and that there is help available’’. The AFP is launching a prevention campaign through NoFiltr, with social media giant Meta – which controls Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp – sharing and promoting the safety videos across its platforms. The AFP is advising victims to take screenshots of the chat and report the crime to the ACCCE. They should also block the fake profile and notify the platform administrators. If children need help, they can call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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