Saskatchewan’s Internet Child Exploitation Unit Sees Double 2021 Extortion Cases
The provincial coordinator of Saskatchewan’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit said investigators are handling double or even triple the number of extortion cases compared to last year.
Staff Sgt. Shawn Stubbs said the ICE unit had seven extortion or sextortion cases in 2021. In the past five months, there have been 12 cases.
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Stubbs said there were about 15 other alleged extortion files.
“We need to protect families, children and young people from this stuff and let them know how it happens,” Stubbs told Global News.
In these types of cases, someone will use a photo stored on the internet and create an account on an app, game or social media site.
“The child thinks it’s someone he knows or a relative just because of the way he talks, the information he shares. Then they become friends with them,” Stubbs said.
The suspect will continue to talk with the child and get more information from him.
“Then once (the child) gets to the point of sharing an intimate picture or intimate video of themselves, once the wrong person gets it, they want to go ahead and force the child to give him more information.”
Stubbs said the suspect would threaten to release the image or video to friends, family or the public.
“Young people are ashamed. They feel threatened and they give them more information,” Stubbs said.
Stubbs said this could lead young people to send more images or personal information.
“Then the wrong person can take the information they gathered from that kid and take their picture, open a new account on a different app, and go after more kids.”
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Stubbs said it’s a growing cycle. Sometimes the predator will ask for monetary funds. The ICE unit wants parents and guardians to be aware of this extortion scam so they can talk to their children about what is going on.
“(Young people) should be comfortable talking to their parents and saying, ‘Here’s what’s going on. I’m caught up in it. I need help’ and then the parents can bring the information to us,” Stubbs said. “We can intervene and sometimes we can help. Sometimes we can’t, but at least you stop the process.
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Speaking to their children, Stubbs said it’s important for parents to tell them they’re not at fault.
“(The youngster) is a victim and he needs help,” Stubbs said. “The child is not the accused. The child is not the one who is the wrong person. The kid got caught up in something and someone lied to them. They are not at fault and children should be able to talk to their parents and know that they will be fine.
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Cybersecurity expert Brennen Schmidt said Apple has come out publicly and is taking the issue seriously. The company is working on rolling out features to ensure young people are better protected.
“That includes metrics like asking children of a specific age whether or not they really want to share some kind of picture,” Schmidt said. “While technology is only part of the problem, I think I would point out that in many cases technology can’t do much. It really comes down to public responsibility.
Schmidt said part of that is making sure kids are aware of these types of dangers on the internet.
“As far as guardians, parents and carers sitting down with children and actually explaining what those implications are, it’s going to be very, very important for them to do that, because technology really can only go so far. . There always seems to be some sort of workaround that bad actors try to thwart.
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Schmidt added that young people are “really, really interested in sharing their personal lives.” “All of this information is being released into the open and it may include very, very sensitive information.”
Schmidt says, for example, that a photo whose metadata is not removed can show the latitude and longitude of where that person lives.
“So even though the address isn’t right behind it and you can see what the front door looks like, if that data is captured in the phone, it will actually be stored with the photo. If you make any maps (SnapChat) or anything like that, then it’s all going to be open information which will make it much easier for threat actors.
Schmidt added that it is crucial to monitor the online activities of minors as well as regularly checking the apps and games the minor is using.
“Go through the phone, see what settings are on by default and also depending on what platform they’re using, see what kind of permissions are requested by those apps,” he said.
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