COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The University of Missouri Police Department has received 10 reports of extortion involving sexual pictures throughout this academic year.
The scam -- known as "sextortion" -- often targets college students according to the Department and often happens over social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat.
"Sextortion scammers often begin a conversation flirting with an unsuspecting individual on an app such as Snapchat or Instagram," MUPD Crime Prevention Officer James Young said in a press release from the University. "Eventually, the scammer solicits sexual pictures or videos. Once those photos or videos are sent, the scammer threatens to share the images if the victim doesn't pay them money."
"We just mostly wanted to raise awareness about this scam and to remind our students and really the general public," Public Safety Information Specialist Sarah Diedrich said. "They should consider the risks before they post or send, you know, anything that they might regret later."
MUPD included a number of recommendations in its press release, including:
- Be selective about what you share online and who you share it with.
- Be wary of messages from strangers. If you don't know them, it's best to ignore or block them."
- Know that people can pretend to be anyone online -- and be conscious of catfishing.
- Do not share explicit photos of yourself, especially with someone you don't know. Just because you believe it's private doesn't mean it always will be.
- Be suspicious of individuals who ask you to switch to a different platform to chat.
- Report suspicious accounts of behavior to the platform you are using and MUPD.
- Be cautious. If something sounds too good or too sketchy to be true, it probably is.
Diedrich said it can be easy to be sucked into a conversation that you may think is going well.
"You, unfortunately, share an explicit photo of yourself. And then what happens is: This person comes back almost immediately and threatens to use that photo to post it or to share it with someone else unless you come up with the money," Deidrich said. "It happens to men and women, and it doesn't just happen to college students. It also happens in the general public."
Diedrich said it can be difficult to track down the culprit.
"That's why we're trying to you know prepare the students in the public and give them some information about this, because it can be very difficult to investigate and to narrow it down to the source," she said.
Deidrich advises students to contact the website that this happened on to report it, and to contact the MUPD if they are a student, faculty or staff member.
She also said students can contact the Student Counseling Center for more help. If you are a student, faculty or staff member, you can file a report online.