COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
A records request obtained by ABC 17 News found that the University of Missouri has investigated two sextortion cases so far this semester.
The University of Missouri Police Department previously announced in April that there were 10 cases during the 2022-23 school year.
MUPD spokeswoman Sarah Deidrich said sextortion can begin, "when you're online and usually this happens like on Snapchat or Instagram and you're approached by a stranger who generally, like, probably starts flirting with you, wants to get into a conversation. Eventually, their conversation turns to them asking for an explicit photo."
After the photo is sent, the person on the other side will then turn to extortion.
"They threaten to publish the photo if you don't give them X amount of dollars," Deidrich said.
However, Dedirch said there are ways to prevent yourself from falling victim to the scam.
"It's extremely important that you know the person that you're communicating with and this type of crime is a perfect example, you know, and it's easy to, you know be flattered by somebody who approaches you online and gives you compliments," Diedrich said. "You certainly don't want to be sending explicit photos to someone you've never met before."
In one of the reported cases, a victim stated they were contacted on social media applications Snapchat and Instagram. Someone claiming to be a woman asked them for "sexually explicit" photos. After the photos were sent, the user -- using the name Kate Niyogal -- demanded $800 from victim, according to an incident report filed in August.
An incident report filed in September -- for a different victim -- showed that the alleged extorter demanded $500 after nude photos were sent. Both victims were men, according to the incident report.
In April, MUPD warned students about a rise in sextortion crimes and offered more advice for students.
Here are some recommendations MUPD gave to keep a safer online profile:
- 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 or 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.
Shael Norris, cofounder of SafeBae -- an organization working to prevent sexual violence for middle and high school students -- said sextortion can happen to anybody, and suggests that it may be a good idea for parents to talk to their children to educate them about online dangers before they head to college.
"Be very cautious of your surroundings online and in person. It is so hard when you know they're not under your roof and sometimes even when they are. And I think kids have a really hard time navigating," Norris said. "But I think if we have those preventative conversations with them before they go."
Deidrich said the University did a series of social media campaigns at the beginning of the school year for a number of issues, including sextortion.