26 September 2023

AFP warns parents of online crimewave

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Parents and teenagers across the country are being warned by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) of a surge in financial ‘sextortion’ which has led to some young people self-harming.

Acting Commander of the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) Detective Jayne Crossling said organised offshore criminal syndicates were continuing to monetise the sexual exploitation of Australian teenagers.

“Victims believe they are sending explicit images or videos of themselves to a person their own age,” Acting Commander Crossling said.

“However, often they are being tricked by adult offenders, who demand money in return for the images not being released to friends, family or online.”

She said current reporting indicated offenders were predominantly targeting teenage boys aged 13-17 years old and often there were multiple victims within the same online friends group.

To help police combat the growing threat, A/Commander Crossling said the AFP was working with a global taskforce that would take rapid and coordinated action against criminals financially sextorting youth.

She said the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) was an alliance of 15 international law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and New Zealand Police.

“Our intelligence suggests this threat will be ongoing, which goes to the importance of the international partnerships to disrupt, deter and take action against these offenders,” A/Commander Crossling said.

She said offenders were becoming more aggressive in their approaches and they were manipulative in making victims feel isolated, with no way out of the situation.

“Fear, coercion and manipulation keep the crime going.

“Victims often report feeling like they have done something wrong and will be punished by parents or carers, or prosecuted by police if their actions are discovered.”

A/Commander Crossling said the ACCCE recently reported a 100-fold increase in reports of financial sextortion followed by a further 60 per cent surge during the summer school holidays.

She said police feared the true number of victims in Australia was much higher with conservative estimates indicating that fewer than a quarter of minors reported to police.

Information on how to protect yourself and family from financial sextortion can be accessed at this PS News link.

If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available, visit www.accce.gov.au/support to learn more.

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