PIKESVILLE, Md. — Maryland State Police say they've received numerous recent reports of minors being sexually extorted on social media.
Investigators say online predators target the minors, giving them the false impression that they are romantically interested in an attempt to get illicit photos.
Often times these predators then blackmail the minors into sending money under the threat that their photos will be released online and to family members and friends.
In many cases suspect accounts originate from foreign countries, limiting the ability of detectives to identify those responsible.
Police say parents and guardians should follow these tips to prevent their child from becoming a victim.
- When contacted by an account you do not know, it is very possible the account does not belong to who they say they are;
- Although an account might seem harmless at first, the nature of a chat can quickly become threatening and intimidating;
- DO NOT click on unknown links / URLs sent by unknown accounts;
- DO NOT take illicit photographs of yourself;
- DO NOT send illicit photographs of yourself online;
- If you are contacted by an unknown account, it is best to ignore the message, report the account to the social media platform, and block the account from being able to view your profile.
- Place computers in a common area of the house and not bedrooms
- Educate yourself about digital devices and the Internet
- Make reasonable rules and set screen time limits
- Reinforce the guiding rule “Don’t talk to strangers”
- Put accounts in your name and know your child’s passwords
- Don’t let your children give out personal information online
- Be aware of other digital devices your child may be using
- Review the use histories or logs of your digital devices to see where your children have been online
Complaints involving the exploitation of children should be filed with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-THE-LOST. If a child is believed to be in imminent danger, citizens are urged to contact their local police or call 9-1-1 immediately.