Urgent warning to parents: Snapchat nude-photo scam targeting teenage boys

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Snap Chat Scam by is licensed under Canva
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article sharing the dangers of a new online scam that tens of thousands of teenage boys across the United States have become victims to. 

According to the article, scammers pose as teenage girls and befriend teenage boys online. The scammers then share a nude photo of a girl, which the boys assume is the actual person and then are asked to share a nude photo in return. Once the boy sends the photo, the scammer demands money be sent by a peer-to-peer payment app.

If the boy doesn't pay, the scammer threatens to share the naked photo with his social-media followers. Law enforcement officials said that unlike "online sextortion," which largely involves pedophiles blackmailing kids into sending photos or videos, this new scam focuses on money.

According to reports, just three years ago the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received fewer than 10 reports of this type of financial extortion. In 2022, the nonprofit received more than 10,000 reports and so far in 2023, have received 12,500.

In a survey conducted by Snap Inc., nearly two-thirds of Gen Z teens and young adults across six countries, said that they or their friends have been targeted in online "sextortion" schemes. The majority of those approached were boys. 

The report from the survey said, "Sixty-five percent of Gen Z teens and young adults, on all platforms and devices, not just Snapchat, said they or their friends were targeted in online catfishing scams or where hacked by criminals who stole explicit personal imagery or other private information." 

The report added, "In both scenarios, the resulting photos and videos were then used to threaten or blackmail the young people, with abusers demanding money, gift cards, more sexual imagery or other personal information in supposed exchange for not releasing the material to the young person's family and friends."

Lauren Coffren, executive director for NCMEC, said that boys are easily lured because they respond to sexual photos more readily than girls do. She said, "The immediate response back is, 'I'm going to ruin your life if you don't pay me.'" Coffren said that more than a dozen teen boys have committed suicide in the United States in instances involving these scams.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), scammers like these are most often located in West Africa, outside of the U.S. legal jurisdiction. However, there have been a few arrests made.

Back in August, two Nigerian men were extradited to the United States in an extortion case that involved a Michigan teen's suicide. 

Law enforcement officials stated that scammers typically try to get photos via Snapchat because of its "disappearing" messages. Jacqueline Beauchere, head of Snapchat's global platform safety, said, "There are some bad actors that seek to exploit some of Snapchat's hallmark features, but we are determined to make sure that Snapchat is a hostile environment for this kind of activity."

An Instagram spokeswoman said that the platform removes content and accounts that attempt to extort, harm or solicit inappropriate imagery. The Wall Street Journal article offers ways in which teens and parents can either protect them from becoming victims of this type or extortion or what they can do if they do in fact become a target. 

Parents can talk to their teens thereby making their kids aware of these types of scams. Generally speaking, teen girls do not ask boys to share nudes. So, if a boy is solicited by a stranger, it is probably not a teenage girl. 

Parents can protect their kids' social media accounts by using the default settings that make it harder for strangers to find and message those whose account holder's age is listed as under 18. Teens should also keep their accounts private and only accept friend requests from people they know.

Setting up the two-factor authentication on all social-media platforms can also be used as a deterrence. Parents can keep an eye on their kids' friends lists. Snapchat, Instagram and Discord allow parents to see who their kids are communicating with and following as well as who is following them.

Parents should also be supervising their payment apps. Parents can restrict who their kids can send money to by creating sponsored accounts for teens on Cash App and Venmo. 

Social media companies are required to report all cases involving child sexual content to NCMEC, but victims and their families should also report those incidents to NCMEC. People can make a report to NCMEC's CyberTipLine online or by calling 800-843-5678.

 
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The opinions reflected in this article are not necessarily the opinions of LET
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