BOSTON (CBS) – The saturation of texting and social networking has lent a hand to a new type of crime dubbed “sextortion.” Too many people are sending messages and photos of themselves that they later regret.
Jeanne (we’re withholding her last name) became a victim of this crime. Her boyfriend always said the intimate photos he took of her would stay private, until the day she broke up with him.
“He threatened to submit them to my company as well as post them on Facebook,” she said. Jeanne even went back to her boyfriend for a short time just so the photos wouldn’t be released. “I was thinking that a million people could see my nude photos and I had absolutely no control over it.”
Jilted partners aren’t the only culprits. Online predators are also using photos as a weapon. Privacy expert Parry Aftab says teens are especially vulnerable to sextortion.
“When teens take and share sexual images, they don’t want their parents, their principal or the police to get hold of them,” Aftab said. “That means when a predator wants them to do things, they say that they will make them public or send them to their parents to get them to comply.”
Ross Ellis is the founder of the advocacy group ‘Love Our Children USA’. She says kids should be reminded that sexting could result in pornography charges. Teens who take or store explicit photos of other teens could face criminal charges, even if they never send the images to anyone else. If convicted they could be forced to register as a sex offender.
“Parents need to not overact,” Ellis said. “They need to sit down with their teens and have a very important conversation. Nothing hysterical, but ‘this is what can happen. This is happening’.”
Several people across the country have been arrested for sextortion. Most recently a California man was arrested for hacking into hundreds of computers. He blackmailed more than 40 teenagers.