Wagoner County Sheriff Chris Elliott wants to warn parents about a social media scam that is making its rounds, targeting children through direct messages.  These scams often come to children from a direct message on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or messaging apps, but communication can also happen outside of those platforms.

Scammers pose as the same age as the victim and try to entice the victim to conduct a live stream or send them photos, generally sexual in nature.  After the victim sends the suggestive content, the scammer ends the feed and sends them a message that they must pay a certain amount of money, or they will share that content with everyone on their friends’ list.  Even if the victim pays the initial price, the scammers will continue to harass the victim demanding money.  The Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office is asking parents to educate their children on social media safety and help them learn to identify possible scams. 

Sheriff Chris Elliott stated “What is typical is that individuals will use fake profiles or accounts, using typically female photographs as their profile pictures. They may set up their profiles to be geographically similar in locations as the victim. Prosecution of these types of large-scale sextortion can prove challenging since predators often living abroad and requiring extradition take multiple steps to obscure their identity.  It is imperative that we teach our youth about the dangers of online predators and scams in today’s digital world.”

1. Talk to your kids about the risks of sextortion: The internet is a powerful tool, but it is also dangerous. Give your kids the knowledge they need to avoid sextortion scams or any other online dangers. Children should understand that this type of scam exists and that a stranger you meet online could be befriending them with ill intent. 

2. Tell your children not to accept friend requests from strangers: Many platforms do not block strangers from having the ability to communicate with your children. Just like in the physical world, contact with strangers poses a real threat and should be avoided. Tell your children to block such messages and to let you know when they occur and if they persist. Some apps and websites like ChatRoulette and Omegle exist solely to connect strangers and pose an outsized risk to kids for sextortion and other forms of sexual abuse.

3.  Check your child’s social media history and profile regularly and monitor posts: Regularly spot checking your child’s social media activity will help keep you better informed as to what they do online, how they use the platforms and who they communicate with. 

4.  Set parental controls: Set them for every app and platform your kids use — especially any apps with chat functions. Parental controls aren’t perfect, but they can keep kids away from some inappropriate contact and content.

5.  Keep the evidence and tell the authorities: If your child has been asked for sexual images or threatened online, save all images and communications between the scammer and the victim. Adult coercion of a child to produce sexual images is a serious offense which carries penalties up to a life sentence in prison. If your child has been victimized, you should alert the authorities immediately.

If you believe you or anyone you know is a victim of this scam you can contact your local police or sheriff’s office to report a crime.