Calgary, AB,

Police issue warning of online extortion scam targeting young boys

With nearly 50 reports of what police are calling “sextortion” incidents since the beginning of the year, investigators are encouraging parents, caregivers and kids to practice online safety.

Sextortion refers to a form of blackmail where online scammers, often using the disguise of a phony profile, establish a connection with potential victims and express romantic interest. As the conversation between the scammer and victim progresses, the scammer will solicit intimate photos and videos of the victim. If the victim complies, the scammer then demands money, threatening to share the explicit material with the victim’s friends list on their profile if payment is not received.  

Between January 1, 2022 and May 30, 2022, Calgary Police have received 48 reports of sextortion incidents, with most targeting teenage boys. As a result, the Calgary Police Service Cybercrime Team launched several investigations. Through conversations with the victims and their families, investigators learned that in most cases, the scammer posed as a young woman and privately messaged victims through Instagram or Snapchat.

“We believe these crimes are vastly underreported,” says Staff Sergeant Graeme Smiley of the Calgary Police Service Cybercrimes Team. “We are thankful for the courageous victims who have come forward and encourage others who believe they have been victimized to do the same. We are asking parents and caregivers to have honest conversations with their children about online safety and how to seek help if kids find themselves in dangerous situations.”

Online extortion scams can be difficult to fully investigate, as scammers often reside in different cities and countries, however, it is still important for victims to report incidents to police so crime trends can be tracked, others can be warned and so that police can help connect victims with necessary supports.

It is illegal for anyone to solicit, send or consume sexually explicit images or video footage of minors.

The Calgary Police Service encourages anyone who believes they are a victim of sexual exploitation to report it to police. Victims of sexual exploitation can report it to police by calling the non-emergency number at 403-266-1234, or 9-1-1 if they are in immediate danger.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers through any of the following methods:

TALK: 1-800-222-8477
APP: P3 Tips
CA #22202819