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Southern Oregon ‘sextortion’ scams targeting teens on the rise

Suspects operate from overseas using Instagram

Police are asking parents to make sure they’re in the loop on their kids’ social media activities following a wave of online scams targeting male juveniles on Instagram.

The multiagency Southern Oregon Child Exploitation Team is investigating seven local cases of blackmail “sextortion” involving adolescent boys from Southern and Central Oregon, according to a news advisory issued from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

The scammer poses as a young woman who adds their targets on Instagram, starts messaging victims, shares a pornographic image and requests the victims share their own sexually explicit photos in exchange.

Once the victim sends the explicit photo, the scammer threatens to share it with the target’s friends and Instagram followers unless the victim wires money into the perpetrator’s account.

In at least two of the local cases, victims wired money to the scam suspect. In at least one of the cases, the scammer turned around and asked for more money.

Attempts to block the scammer typically result in the suspect harassing the victim using one of multiple other Instagram accounts.

An earlier version of this scam targeted female juveniles by coercing them to provide more explicit photos of themselves, according to police, but the latest scam targets males.

Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations agents are tracking thousands of similar blackmail schemes reported across the country. Police say the scam has “even led to suicide and suicide attempts for victims.”

The scammers typically are operating overseas. Federal agents are working with foreign authorities to prosecute suspects linked to the scam.

Police recommend that kids’ social media accounts be set to private, and that they not reveal personal information in public.

Any child who becomes a victim of the “sextortion” scam should immediately block the account, report it to the social media company and report the contact to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at report.cybertip.org.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.