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Analyzing The Disturbing World Of ‘Sextortion’

It's Happening A Lot More, With Teens Often As Victims
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Teens texting

Texting (credit: CBS 2)

Kristine-Johnson-thumbnail Kristine Johnson
Kristine Johnson currently co-anchors the 5 p.m. & 11 p.m. news at...
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NEW YORK (CBS 2) – You’ve heard of “sexting” — sending sexually explicit messages or photos via a cell phone — but what about “sextortion?”

It’s a form of blackmail where the recipients of those suggestive texts threaten to go public with them. And as authorities told CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson it’s on the rise.

“Jeanne’s” boyfriend always said the photos he took of her would stay private. That is until the day she broke up with him.

“He started threatening me with the nude photos. He threatened to submit them to my company,” Jeanne said.

Jeanne said she was so scared she actually went back to him for a short time, just so the photos wouldn’t get out.

“I was devastated. I was thinking that a million people could see my nude photos. And I had absolutely no control over it,” she said.

She’s far from alone. Jeanne is the victim of what’s now known as “sextortion” — which takes its name from extortion. It’s the latest cyber-crime — anyone can be a target, but teens are the most vulnerable. Parry Aftab is a New Jersey attorney who handles sextortion cases.

“When teens take and share sexual images, they don’t want their parents, their principal or the police to get a hold of them,” Aftab said.

As a result they’re at the complete mercy of the extortionist, who doesn’t just want money and isn’t always an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. Many sextorting situations involve complete strangers who hack into accounts and steal sexts.

“That means when a predator wants them to do things — take more images or actually engage in sex — that they say that they will make them public or send them to their parents to get them to comply,” said Aftab, who is also the executive director of wiredsafety.org.

It was the exact m.o. used by an upstate New York man who is accused of allegedly bullying a Long Island teen into performing sex acts for him via an Internet webcam.

CBS 2 has found similar cases all across the country. In Alabama, a man was sentenced to 18 years in prison after sending threatening emails to more than 50 young women whose naked photos he had obtained. In Wisconsin, a teen received 15 years in prison for extorting sex from classmates. And in southern California, a man allegedly hacked into the computers of more than 200 girls and women, stealing photographs for extortion.

“It is just horrific. It is disgusting and they’ve got to be stopped,” said Ross Ellis, CEO of Love Our Children USA.

Ellis deals with victims of sextortion and has a strong message for parents.

“Parents need to not overreact. They need to sit down with their teens and have a very important conversation. Nothing hysterical but, ‘this is what can happen, this is happening,’” Ellis said.

“What you need to do is make sure that your children come to you early enough that you can do something to help them,” Aftab added.

In Jeanne’s case her ex didn’t do what he threatened, but as far as she knows those pictures remain on his computer to this day.

“They’re still out there. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it,” she said.

Experts also warn that there are legal consequences when it comes to sexting in general. Your teen could be brought up on child pornography charges just for having nude photos on the phone.

For more information, click here.

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