‘Sextortionists’ Are Increasingly Targeting Young Men For Money. The Outcome Can Be Deadly. by Corky Siemaszko
May 8, 2022
“They wouldn’t give up, and he felt he had no choice but to do it to protect his family,” one mother said after internet blackmailers targeted her son and he took his own life.
by Corky Siemaszko
Internet blackmailers are increasingly duping young men and boys into sending them sexually explicit content online by posing as young girls on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and then extorting them in a scheme known as “sextortion” — and dozens of these cases have ended with the victims taking their own lives, police and child advocates told NBC News.
In a sign of how serious the problem is becoming, the FBI’s field office in Los Angeles released a warning last month aimed directly at the parents of young men caught in the crosshairs of these cyber-criminals who often operate in foreign countries.
“The FBI is receiving an increasing number of reports of adults posing as young girls coercing young boys through social media to produce sexual images and videos and then extorting money from them,” the FBI warning said.
Dozens of boys have reported being “victims of sextortion; mostly for money, although others were reportedly sextorted for additional images,” the agency said in a subsequent news release.
One of those victims was 17-year-old Ryan Last, who lived near San Jose, California. Last died by suicide in February after an extortionist, threatening to post compromising pictures of him on the internet, was demanding more and more money from the teen, his mother, Pauline Stuart, said.
“They wouldn’t give up and he felt he had no choice but to do it to protect his family,” Stuart said of her son. “He loved us so much that he wanted to protect us from the mistake he made.”
Local police forces also report seeing a rise in cases in which blackmailers focus on young men.
… Why Boys and Why Now?
In previous years, the typical victim of this type of crime was young girls, but there’s been a shift toward boys recently, John Shehan of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said, adding that he’s seen an “explosion” of these cases in the past six months.
“It’s rare to talk about or hear about the sexual exploitation of boys,” he said. “In reality, boys are equally vulnerable to these crimes and more and more often are being enticed and coerced to create sexually explicit content.”
Boys are easier targets “because they are easier to coerce into exchanging intimate photographs” and are less likely to tell anybody what happened to them out of shame, Peirce said.
… Who Are The Extortionists?
Peirce said the children are being targeted by a sophisticated criminal group operating overseas.
“It’s definitely a criminal enterprise involving organizations located in countries with which we don’t have extradition treaties,” Peirce said. “It’s too sophisticated to be an individual operation.”
Those countries include Nigeria, India and, especially, the Ivory Coast, which has long been a center for cybercrime, and where the blackmailers are known as “brouteurs,” according to law enforcement and published reports.
In 2014, a former brouteur told a BBC reporter how he operated.
“You [find] yourself a man or a woman who is looking for love,” he said. “Then you start chatting and exchange photos.”
Once that happens, the brouteur imposes what he calls “the tax” and starts draining the victim’s wallet dry.
The Mirror reported in 2017 that at least four U.K. teenagers who were being blackmailed by internet sextortionists died by suicide, and police told to the British newspaper, “We just see the tip of the iceberg.”
… If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
May 21, 2022
by Ronny Reyes
A 17 year-old boy killed himself hours after an online ‘sextortionist’ tricked him into sending a nude photo, then blackmailed him for $5,000.
Ryan Last, a straight-A student from San Jose, died by suicide in February just hours after being approached by a creep posing as a girl on a social media app.
The sicko sent Ryan, who attended Sobrato High School, a naked photo they claimed was of themselves, then asked him to send one back in return.
He was immediately hit with the demand for cash on doing so, which was later revised down to $150 after Ryan pleaded that he didn’t have the cash.
The youngster paid out from his college savings, but the warped internet user continued to pester him for more cash, and drove Ryan to end his own life.
His stricken mother Pauline Stuart found a suicide note explaining what happened and, has now bravely shared her ordeal with CNN in a bid to try and spare other families the same grief.
…FBI officials said the case is still under investigation and part of a worrying trend of ‘sextorition’ crimes targeting teenage boys across the country.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Dan Costin, who leads a team to counter crimes against children, told CNN that US boys are being targeted by scammers from Africa and Southeast Asia in these extortion scams.
While the FBI is working with law enforcement officials around the world to track down these ‘sextoritionist,’ Costin said there could be many more cases the agencies don’t know about given that victims may not always report the crime.