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Numerous online extortion incidents under investigation: OPP

Police warn against sending photos or videos to people online
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TOWN OF NEW TECUMSETH, ADJALA-TOSORONTIO AND ESSA TOWNSHIPS – Members of the Nottawasaga Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Crime Unit have been investigating several unrelated incidents of online extortion and are urging members of the public to remain diligent when online.

Communication with family, friends, peers or romantic partners, increasingly takes place online through social media or other applications. In some circumstances, this leads to unsuspecting people falling victim to various forms of exploitation and, in some cases, extortion. Sometimes there is a mistaken belief that messages and images shared online will remain private and secure, which can pose a significant source of embarrassment and safety concerns for people involved. As a result of a misconception that individuals can remain anonymous, or that their identity will not be revealed, individuals may engage and communicate with someone they don't know in real life, only ever having met online.

In many cases, the victims are befriended by a stranger online, and through the course of their conversations, intimate images or videos may be exchanged. In some circumstances, the suspect attempts to extort the victim by demanding a ransom be paid. Failure to comply with the demands may lead to the victim's intimate images being forwarded to family members, friends, co-workers, employers, or even published online. 

Sending intimate and personal information or images can have potentially dangerous consequences and permanent long-term threats to a victim's identity and reputation. There are also consequences for those individuals who receive these images and re-distribute them. It is a crime to send intimates images to others and post them online without the subject's consent. Individuals who engage in the distribution of intimate images could face criminal charges. If the victim is a minor, they can be charged for the distribution of child pornography.

"While the internet can be very informative and a great way to stay in touch with those we care about during the current pandemic, it can also be a dangerous place. If you are not careful, people may take advantage of you. We have noticed an increase in virtual crimes this year, as people spend more time online. These offences are difficult to investigate, especially if the offender(s) reside outside of Canada. Be mindful, once an image is digitally shared, you no longer have control of it. Cybercriminals are constantly inventing new threats, making it more important to be conscientious about what information you share with others - especially strangers." – Acting Detective Sergeant Sarah Vance, Nottawasaga OPP Crime Unit