Surrey Mounties say the city is seeing an increase in sexual image extortions, with 77 reports in the second quarter of 2020.
Police received 32 reports in the first quarter.
Corporal Joanie Sidhu said many of the files involve “threats to expose a sexual image of the victim to other people if the victim does not pay money or provide more sexual content.”
The criminals typically meet their victims online through social media or dating apps and entice them to share images and videos, having them believe they are involved in a mutual relationship.
“The photos and videos were later used for the purpose of extortion. In the reported incidents, the average ages of victims were between 18 and 29 years old, and the number of male and female victims were evenly split,” Sidhu said.
Staff Sergeant Lyndsay O’Ruairc, Special Victim’s Unit Commander, advises people who are considering sending someone else a nude photo or video to ask themselves if they are “comfortable letting go of your control over those images” as they can easily be distributed and made public.
“While it’s illegal to distribute nude photos without consent, the consequences for the victim can be significant,” O’Ruairc noted.
Meantime, Sidhu said the Surrey RCMP continues to hear from people who’ve got scam emails claiming that their computer has been hacked.
“The person is told to send money or bitcoin under the threat of having nude or sexually explicit videos of them distributed,” she said. “In these cases, there was no proof of photos or videos or other information being obtained from the victims’ computers.”
Police advise people to disable their webcam or any camera connected to the internet when they’re not using it, to create complex, difficult-to-guess passwords for their devices and accounts, and to frequently change the passwords.
Police ask anyone who is a victim of an extortion, or knows of someone who has been extorted, to call the Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502 and also report extortion scams to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre on their website or by calling 1-888-495-8501.