Winnipeg – Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children, is seeing an alarming trend in reports from teens who have had their Snapchat accounts hacked and had their intimate images or videos shared on the social media platform. Since August 2021, both Cybertip.ca and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P), which operates Cybertip.ca, have received a combined 27 reports related to this extortion trend. In some cases the perpetrator threatened to hack their Snapchat account and share intimate images of the teen. In other cases, the teen’s Snapchat account was hacked and intimate images were distributed as a result. Some tactics the offenders used included:
- Contacting the teen through direct message on Snapchat, mentioning they have seen naked pictures of the teen on a site or they have naked pictures of the teen taken from the teen’s My Eyes Only folder (private snaps saved in the app that have a passcode) in Snapchat.
- Providing a link to an external site or a page to “recover” their email and password, then using the information entered by the teen to take over their account.
- Adding the teen’s friends on Snapchat or sending a picture of the teen’s followers as a manipulation tactic.
- Stalking the teen online and persistently contacting them until they comply with the demands.
- In some instances the teen had previous interactions with the offender on Snapchat or other platforms prior to being threatened.
In a number of the cases reported to Cybertip.ca, the teen’s intimate images were in fact shared either on the offender’s Snapchat story, the teen’s hacked Snapchat story, or were sent directly to the teen’s contacts the offender added or threatened to share with.
In almost every report the offender demanded money in order to keep the offender from hacking the teen’s account or sharing the imagery they had already obtained. However, in a few reports the perpetrator asked for additional content (e.g., more intimate images/videos) in order for the imagery not to be shared. Snapchat is among a variety of platforms used to target teens. In a September 2021, Cybertip.ca Alert, the tipline noted a 62% increase reports of teens being sextorted across a number of every day apps and platforms. It’s common to see initial contact on Omegle™ or Instagram®, and then the communication moving to Google+ Hangouts® or Skype®, where teens are coerced to undress on camera.
For more information and resources, visit cybertip.ca/sextortion.