A San Jose student received a message from someone he thought for a girl in February. The communication became intimate before becoming criminal, in what the FBI warns is a rising occurrence of “sextortion” instances. Shortly after the talk began, the 17-year-old died by suicide.
Pauline Stuart the mother of a San Jose, California student told CNN about what happened to her son just days after they went on a college tour to see which institutions they would attend in the fall.
“Somebody reached out to him pretending to be a girl, and they started a conversation,” the mother said.
Law enforcement calls the scam “sextortion,” and investigators have seen an explosion in complaints from victims leading the FBI to ramp up a campaign to warn parents from coast to coast https://t.co/snxAu81Wt3
— CNN (@CNN) May 21, 2022
According to CNN, The scammer — posing as a young girl — sent Ryan a nude photo and then asked Ryan to share an explicit image of himself in return. Immediately after Ryan shared an intimate photo of his own, the cybercriminal demanded $5,000, threatening to make the photo public and send it to Ryan’s family and friends.
Ryan told the scammer he could not pay the full amount, and the demand was ultimately lowered to $150. When he paid them, according to his mom, “They kept demanding more and more and putting lots of continued pressure on him.”
By 2 a.m. Ryan committed suicide that night, leaving a note expressing his embarrassment for himself and his family.
“He really, truly thought in that time that there wasn’t a way to get by if those pictures were actually posted online, His note showed he was absolutely terrified. No child should have to be that scared.” Pauline told CNN.
Sextortion, according to the FBI, is a serious felony that occurs when someone threatens to release sensitive information, such as nude photos unless you give them sexual images, sexual favors, or money. And anyone can become a target of this scam, who has access to the internet.
Kids are being extorted online, called SEXTORTION
🔴 They target kids, especially overachievers, athletes
🔴 They send a naked pic & ask kid to send one back
🔴 After its sent,they start blackmailing kid for 💰 or they will post it or send it to family or college pic.twitter.com/x3sBzKUJiQ
— Primetime585⭕️ (@PrimetimeBall_) May 24, 2022
The FBI said nearly 18,000 sextortion-related complaints were filed in 2021, with losses totaling more than $13 million. Offenders using child pornography to lure suspects is also a serious crime, the FBI added.
This is absolutely tragic and sadly, not the first child suicide directly linked to #sextortion
Please share far and wide, wirh everyone you know who has children, so we can make this the last 😭https://t.co/bg2atMQogn
— Misty 🌻 (@sAveLivEsGoVeG) May 23, 2022
Springfield Police Department Spokesperson Ryan Walsh said:
“99% of the time we find out here that if it is a scam, usually they have no way of knowing who your family members are or who your friends are. It’s oftentimes people from other countries who are doing this online, but it can be someone that knows you that’s trying to hurt you and scam you or trying to get money off of you.”
Young boys are particularly prone to sextortion-related scams, medical specialists say.
Dr. Scott Hadland, chief of adolescent medicine at Mass General in Boston said:
“Teen brains are still developing. So when something catastrophic happens, like a personal picture is released to people online, it’s hard for them to look past that moment and understand that in the big scheme of things they’ll be able to get through this.”