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I know all the usual tells of a scam like this but the scammer made it very believable, they had normal amount of followers on insta, a high snapscore and a consistent face from the snaps. so, I was convinced that it wasnt a scam. I was wrong.

— Anonymous

An Analysis of Financial Sextortion Victim Posts Published on r/Sextortion

Thousands of young men and boys have been targeted by financial sextortion crimes in 2022. In an open-source analysis of 6,500+ first-hand accounts shared publicly by sextortion victims on a popular forum, Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) research analysts found additional information on what has quickly become a public safety emergency affecting many Canadians and online users abroad.

Read the Report

Key Findings

The volume of new posts and subscribers to the Reddit/r/Sextortion forum has been rising sharply since the spring of 2022. Analyses of these posts demonstrate that:

  • The primary targets of financial sextortion are boys and young men. Of the forum posts that included information about the victim’s gender, 98 percent were male.
  • Many extorters use a similar strategy involving Snapchat and Instagram. Posing as a female, they first contact the victim on Instagram. They soon move the conversation to Snapchat, where they entice the victim to send a nude image. Then the extorter blackmails the victim: they demand that the victim send them money, and if not, they will send the victim’s nudes to their friends and family. To legitimize their threats, extorters will send the victim screenshots of victim’s social media contacts.
  • Popular platforms have design characteristics that create favourable conditions for predation. Extorters weaponize social media platforms in that they can easily create fake accounts to access potential victims and their personal information and social networks. Victims also pointed to platform reporting functions that failed to provide them with options to accurately describe their situation and a lack of meaningful action being taken by platform operators.
  • Complying with extorters’ demands for money typically leads to more demands for money. When victims sent extorters money, in nearly all cases (93 percent) the extorters subsequently asked for more money.
  • Cybersecurity or reputation management firms and individuals claiming expertise overpromise their services, including the prevention of image distribution in exchange for significant sums of money. Victims described negative interactions with these firms and individuals, likening their high-pressure sales tactics to those of extorters. Notably, victims who had employed fee-for-service firms or so-called “experts”, sometimes for thousands of dollars, advised others against hiring these firms.

Key Takeaways

  • Victim narratives suggest that when targeted by a financial sextortion attempt, an effective strategy is to not give in to an extorter’s demands and cut off all communication.
  • Social media platforms should ensure accounts for users under 18:
    • are by default private;
    • do not nudge them to add other users; and
    • do not incentivize them to share personal information, such as real-time location.
  • Social media platforms should provide reporting options specific to blackmail and extortion that are responsive and capture the seriousness of users being aggressively and actively targeted.
  • Information collected on the r/Sextortion forum shows extorters are using various online payment processors, including gift cards. Further research is needed to identify strategies to prevent extorters from exploiting these services to commit these crimes.

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