Sextortion and how to prevent it

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Cyber Crime Response Agency receives many calls per week from individuals reporting that an online sexual encounter took place, with the opposite sex on camera. These situations typically result in the other party threatening to post private images of the victim online, unless that victim pays an amount of money.

A lot of the reportees we receive are worried that they’ve committed a type of crime. This could be further from the truth. As long as both parties involved understand that both are legal adults, anyone can have any type of encounter with another.

So how exactly do these suspects find their victims? Many of them search Facebook for random Facebook accounts, while others post in personals online. On Facebook, it typically starts off with a random friend request from the opposite sex. Once the account owner accepts the friend request, the suspect will then attempt to entice and encourage the account owner to come on camera, to engage in sexual activities. The threat can occur at any time,¬†from the middle to the end of the encounter. Threats typically consist of statements that videos or pictures have been saved and will be posted or sent to family, if an amount of money isn’t sent.

Humiliating, right? So how can you avoid these types of situations? Simple! Don’t have them. Although crimes aren’t being committed by having the encounter, you have to take into consideration, the possibilities of threats. Should you fall for these types of crimes, do not make payment to anyone, for any reason, no matter how severe the threat is. In our experience, 95% of suspects to threaten, do not actually follow through with their threats. Why? Because they have nothing to gain from it.

You can make reports of these situations to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Do vigilante groups truly help against online predators?

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We’ve all heard at some point, either on the news or online, that a group of individuals have assisted or have “busted a predator” themselves. Sounds like a great way to put an end to online pedophilia, right? Well, there are negative consequences that many are unaware of.

The phrase, “don’t bite off more than you can chew” fits right into this particular scenario. Law enforcement around the country are always dealing with reports of online pedophilia. If you’ve read articles on certain online groups, you’ve probably seen the many vigilante groups and members who are getting themselves into hot water. So what exactly does “hot water” mean?

CCRA has spoken to members of many vigilante groups, who’ve admitted in some point in their online decoy operations, they’ve had negative encounters with law enforcement and civil attorneys. When asked what this entailed, they explained that attorneys have contacted them, bringing suit against them for false accusations, defamation of character, and many other areas. Law enforcement has also asked them to stop meeting predators who they meet online, in person, regardless of state or country.

When CCRA asked law enforcement about this, they made it perfectly clear that that civilians who are not contracted, affiliated, or partnered with law enforcement agencies, should not be attempting to apprehend online predators. This includes chatting with predators online, collecting their personal information for personal gain, meeting in person and recording those in person encounters.

What’s the big deal? According to our meetings with law enforcement, individuals who are not one of the following above, who do not have the authority or power to attempt to stop predators as individuals or groups, are either at risk of impersonating law enforcement, destroying an on-going investigation, and setting themselves up for civil suit, since the predator the groups are dealing with, have not been convicted in a court of law. Believe it or not, these civil suits can and will be a win for the suspected predator.

With the largely growing number of predators, how in the world is the online community supposed to support and protect their community, both physically and online? Law enforcement stated that online observations and reports to law enforcement are sufficient enough and do not pose a threat to themselves, or law enforcement investigations.

How does CCRA avoid these mentioned issues? CCRA does not perform decoy operations or interact the predator or victim. Our operations are solely visual and will remain that way, unless otherwise instructed by a law enforcement agency. If a law enforcement agency instructs you to do such tasks, you are then brought under their protection, which should be documented on a form, which both parties can sign.

Although it’s know that the laws have not yet caught up to the internet, all civilians should steer clear of attempting to apprehend, meet with, and communicate with predators as a decoy, as many call themselves.