A recent report from an underage boy who was lured into participating in a graphic video chat online, then extorted by the stranger who recorded it on her own computer, highlights dangers that can befall unsupervised children with internet access, according to local law enforcement.
The boy, whose name and age are not publicly available because he is younger than 18, contacted the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office last week after the female predator told him she would post the video of him online if he didn’t send her money, according to a report.
The boy said the woman convinced him to participate in the graphic video chat by threatening to physically hurt his family, a threat she made more real by telling the boy she could find them using location information he had posted online. He said the woman who appeared in the video chat looked nothing like the person in the profile picture.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Megan Terlecky said the boy was courageous for finally coming forward, but that law enforcement views the situation as a cautionary tale of what not to do.
“This is what we tell kids not to do when it comes to the internet,” Terlecky said. “Don’t talk to anybody you don’t know on the internet.”
Internet users should be leery of profiles that have just been created and don’t have much of a history, Terlecky said.
In the recent Mesa County instance, the predator contacted the boy using a Facebook account under the name “Samira Dupon,” and appeared to have been created the same day she contacted the boy.
“Those are more than likely just created, just to be scams,” Terlecky said.
But no matter who users are talking to, Terlecky said the idea that internet or cellphone activity will remain private should go out the window.
“There is no such thing as privacy on the internet,” she said. “It’s really important to be aware that whatever you do put out there is going to be out there forever.”
Those who do fall victim to internet predators and extortionists should fight through their embarrassment and come forward, Terlecky said, like the boy in the recent case.
“They are counting on you not to speak up and not to step forward because you’re embarrassed,” she said. “But still, even if you made a mistake by sending a photo or by engaging in a video … you still have the right to not be a victim.”
Victims shouldn’t let their feelings stop them from reporting extortion to law enforcement, she said.
“We’re not going to judge you,” Terlecky said. “We’re here to help you.”
Nobody has been arrested in the recent Mesa County case. The deputy who responded told the boy and his parents he would “most likely not be able to locate the suspect.”
However, Terlecky said she would urge anyone who has been victimized or extorted online to come forward and speak to law enforcement by either coming to the Sheriff’s Office at 215 Rice St. or calling the department at 970-244-3500.
Parents need to talk with their children about what they’re doing online, she said. They should be aware that their children might be embarrassed or afraid of having their device taken away.
“Kids are smart. Kids are sneaky. But you really need to have that open line of communication,” Terlecky said.
Warning signs for kids being taken advantage of or even bullied online can include general emotional withdrawal, she said.
Parents should check their children’s internet use history if they suspect something is amiss
Information via Grand Junction Daily Sentinel