April 15, 2024

Unmasking the threat of scammers exploiting children online

An alarming number of Australian children are being targeted by international scammers, who exploit them for sexual images with the intention of blackmailing them, and the threat is increasing.

According to recent reports, malicious Internet users have advanced their methods, employing artificial intelligence (AI) tools, to manipulate innocent photographs by inserting victims’ faces into explicit images.

Victims are then pressured to pay money – even if they have never shared explicit content – ​​while online criminals threaten to reveal the inappropriate material to their friends and family.

If you don’t know them personally, don’t connect with them.

Mary Kayalicos, mother of two girls (aged 18 and 19), highlights that a major factor contributing to the prevalence of this problem is the fact that “parents are not educated enough about the problem.”

“Open communication is key for me as a mother so I can talk to my daughters about the potential dangers associated with unknown profiles.

“If you don’t know them personally, don’t connect with them!” Mary Kayalicos said Neos Cosmos.

The 48-year-old mother believes her generation is progressively adapting to technological advances, particularly artificial intelligence tools, and becoming more aware of the risks related to “catfishing,” the act of creating a false identity. online to trick someone, usually for profit. romance or money.

However, he mentions that “sometimes children fall into the trap of connecting with people they don’t know,” simply seeing it as “a way to communicate with someone.”

This appears to have happened with a friend’s son, revealed Kayalicos, who claims to have been a victim of catfishing, after interacting with someone online who was posing as an attractive woman and sending sexually explicit messages.

The Greek-Australian mother of young adults also expressed concern that “the inability of today’s generation to put aside their mobile phones for a second and approach girls to make a real connection” is “another problem facing teenagers and young adults”.

“We need to remind them that it is important to develop their social skills as young adults, to approach a person, greet them and start a conversation.

This generation needs to go back to the basics,” Kayalicos said.

Mary Kayalicos, a Greek Australian mother of two young adults, says “open communication is key” to informing her daughters about “the potential dangers associated with unknown profiles.” Photo: Exterior

Open communication is key

Dr Anastasia Hronis, clinical psychologist and founder of the Australian Institute for Human Wellbeing, shares that she has also encountered cases of sextortion in her clinical practice.

“Unfortunately, we have had families come to us to inform us about the psychological impacts of being victims of sextortion. This is especially worrying when children and adolescents are targeted,” Dr. Hronis told Neos Cosmos.

Given how easy it is for “children today to find their way to the dark web and become victims of these types of crimes,” Hronis notes that parents are increasingly concerned about their children’s safety online, as They often seek guidance on how to protect them. of the dangers that lurk in the digital space.

“Their concerns range from being victims of pedophiles and predators who pose as other children and ask to meet in person, to making sexual requests,” said the Australian Greek clinical psychologist.

It also addressed “parental concerns about online gaming” and highlighted that “children can connect and play with people from all over the world, who may pretend to be children but are actually predators.”

According to Dr. Hronis, there are a number of factors that can influence the behavior of criminals.

“Sometimes it can be a serious mental illness that drives offenders. On other occasions, when children and adolescents are the targets of these crimes, we can see pedophilia as the motivating force. Finances can also be a determining factor, as well as revenge,” he explained.

How can parents protect their children from online risks?

According to Dr. Hronis, “it is important for parents to have open and ongoing conversations with their children about these topics.”

He also mentioned that “in 2023, the Australian government launched a media campaign titled “One Conversation at a Time,” which “highlights the importance of having regular, proactive and preventive conversations with children about these issues, to prevent child sexual abuse.” .

Dr Anastasia Hronis, clinical psychologist and founder of the Australian Institute for Human Wellbeing. Photo: Exterior

The Sextortion Method.

As recently reported by Herald of the sunThe Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team (JACET), involving both Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police, warns that during the summer holidays, more children could be at risk of sextortion, a form of sexual exploitation that involves the use of physical coercion to obtain sexual favors.

Acting Senior Sergeant Warren Hutchison highlighted that teenagers, who are highly motivated by their sexual interest, become vulnerable targets for offshore criminals using the sextortion method.

According to senior intelligence analyst Lauren-Ann Szostak, children often receive friend requests on social media platforms from users pretending to be of the opposite sex and similar in age to the victims.

Once they trick victims into obtaining revealing photographs, they blackmail them by threatening to publish the explicit content unless the victim pays with money or gift cards.

However, police said this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Ms. Szostak emphasized that “it is really important for victims to know that they are not alone” and that “hopefully that will encourage people to come forward.”

Data and recommendations

According to a study led by a UNSW research team, considered the largest prevalence study of child sexual abuse perpetration ever conducted in the world, it was found that:

– Almost one in ten men admits to having committed a sexual crime against children.

– One in six men claims to be sexually attracted to children.

– Almost one in twenty men wants help for their sexual feelings towards children.

What to take into account

– Friend requests from unknown people.

– Sudden introduction of questions or discussion of sexual content.

– Instantly receive sexually explicit images from a fake profile requesting the same in return

– Receive a personal message in one app and then ask you to continue the conversation in a different app

– Indications that English is a second language.

– Fake profiles claiming that your camera or microphone does not work for video calls or chats

– Promises from people who manage fake profiles that the content will be removed.

what is recommended

– End the conversation

– Take a screenshot of suspicious messages or profiles

– Block the fake account and report it to the social media platform.

– Report to Victoria Police or the Australian Center to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE)

– Do not send more images, do not deposit the requested money and do not comply with their requests.

*If you, someone you know, or a minor has been a victim of extortion or sexual assault, consider the following support services.

Australian Government eSafety Service

Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 or kidshelpline.com.au

Headspace: 1800 650 890 or headspace.org.au

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *