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Online Harms: Sextortion

What is critical to know?

An organized attack against youth:

  • Cybertip.ca receives an average of 10 SEXTORTION reports per day.
  • Cybertip.ca received 2,500 sextortion reports.
  • Typically, boys are extorted for money.
    Girls are extorted for more images.
  • When genders were known, 90% of sextortion victims have been male.
  • Sextortion demands for money often come from international organized criminal networks.
  • 79% of sextortion incidents occurred on Instagram or Snapchat.
  • Contact often occurs on Instagram, then moves to Snapchat.

* All stats are from January 1, 2023 – December 31, 2023.

From a Canadian mom whose son died by suicide last year after being sextorted:

What is sextortion?

Simply put, sextortion is blackmail. It’s when someone online threatens to send a sexual image or video of you to other people if you don’t pay them or provide more sexual content.

How does the sextortion occur?

  • Youth (young men in particular) are often tricked into believing they are talking to a young girl. They chat over a short period of time, usually several hours, but in some cases as little as 20 minutes.
  • Sextorters convince their victims to exchange sexual content and often start the trade by sharing a sexual photo first. The targeted youth then sends a sexual photo or video, or are tricked into exposing themselves or engaging in a sexual act over a livestream and being unknowingly recorded.
  • Immediately after receiving the sexual content, the sextorter makes their demands. If a young girl is victimized, the sextorter typically demands additional sexual photos and videos. If the sextorter targets a boy, they almost always demand money instead.
    • The sextorter will try to intimidate their victim by threatening to leak the content online or share it directly with the youth’s friends/family if they don’t comply. It‘s common for the offender to share screenshots of the youth’s contacts or other identifying information (school, home address) to terrify the youth into sending sexual photos or money.
  • If the youth gives in, the sextorter will demand more sexual photos or money. Sextorters will sometimes barter and accept a lower amount if the youth says they cannot pay.
    • Amounts of money demanded range from as little as $9 (the amount a youth had in their bank account) to $7,500.
  • If the sextorter demands money, payment forms vary from online payment providers like PayPal, Western Union, MoneyGram, etc.; through online gift cards for Amazon, Google Play, Steam, VISA, etc.; or through e-transfer direct from bank accounts.

What are other tactics used by Sextorters?

  • Offering a gift or money to a youth who sends sexual content
  • Targeting multiple siblings or friends connected to the victim
    • Increasing the level of aggression if a youth doesn’t quickly comply – for example, threatening to ruin the victim’s life or hurt their family or animals
  • Creating several accounts to make it seem like more than one person is targeting the youth
  • Demanding youth create other accounts on social media for the sextorter’s use in victimizing other youth
  • Threatening to share the sexual image/video with a school or many schools
  • Threatening to share the sexual image/video with newspapers, news outlets and TV stations

What should youth do if they are being sextorted?

If someone is threatening to share your nude image or video, there is help:

  • Immediately stop talking to them. Screenshot all of the messages you have with the sextorter. Depending on the situation, you may want or need to share them with a safe adult or police.
  • Never pay money and never send additional nudes. Do NOT give in to threats. In the thousands of cases Cybertip.ca has seen, responding makes the harassment worse. If you’ve already paid money, check to see if it has been collected. If it hasn’t - quickly cancel the payment.
  • Delete and block the sextorter.
  • Reach out for help and report. Speak to a safe adult for support.

You don’t have to deal with sextortion on your own – it’s a lot to manage, but there are supports available to help you.

How we can help:

  • Go to NeedHelpNow.ca for support and help on what to do next.
  • Report to Cybertip.ca. All concerns about sextortion are also forwarded to police.
  • In many cases, we reach out to services like Instagram and Snapchat to intervene in the moment to help get the sextorters’ accounts disabled.
  • Cybertip.ca staff work closely with our support services team to assist youth in crisis and help you and your family through the incident.

Resources for youth

  • NeedHelpNow.ca

    This resource offers teens important information and guidance on how to stop the spread of intimate images or videos, and provides support along the way.
  • Kids in the Know: Healthy Relationships

    In this video series, Dr. Michael Salter, a criminologist from Australia, briefly explains boundaries, sexual consent, stereotypes, and healthy versus unhealthy behaviours in relationships.

Resources for parents and educators

  • ProtectKidsOnline.ca

    This site regularly gleans information from Cybertip.ca to help parents stay informed about age-specific interests of young people, the risks they face online, and proactive strategies for helping to make their child's online experiences safer.