AFP records spike in financial sextortion reports over the school holidays
The AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) has experienced a predicted surge in the online financial sextortion trend targeting young Australians over the school holiday period.
The spike in reports comes as children return to the classroom for the 2023 school year, with a nearly 60 per cent rise in reports in December 2022 alone.
The latest statistics from the ACCCE show overseas offenders primarily target teenage boys, with more than 90 per cent of victim reports to police coming from young males.
The school holiday surge was predicted due to global police intelligence and saw the AFP and ACCCE issue an urgent message in early December to secondary and high schools in Australia as an awareness and prevention initiative.
Despite the sharp rise in reports, police suspect the offending is far greater than what is being reported.
With school returning, police are urging teenagers to talk openly with their friends, parents, carers and educators.
“We are seeing offshore criminal syndicates targeting a victim’s entire friend list,” said acting Assistant Commissioner Hilda Sirec.
“This type of financial sextortion involves victims being coerced into sending sexualised images or videos of themselves by online offenders, usually with the offender pretending to be another young person. The offender then threatens to on-share the content to others unless the victim pays.
“When this happens to someone under the age of 18, it is online child sexual exploitation and I want to reassure victims of this crime that they will not be in trouble with the police for coming forward and reporting,” acting Assistant Commissioner Sirec said.
As part of an ongoing effort to combat online financial sextortion, the AFP, working together with AUSTRAC, have shut down more than 1,000 Australian bank, financial services and digital currency accounts linked to offshore organised syndicates sexually exploiting Australian teenagers between June and December 2022.
This crime can cause significant fear and trauma to victims, and has been associated with instances of self-harm. It is normal for young victims to want to hide what has happened and not talk about it with parents, carers or report to police.
"Some victims are unwilling to report the abuse and even deny that anything has happened if identified and contacted by police because they may feel a sense of shame or embarrassment," acting Assistant Commissioner Sirec said.
"If your child is or has been a victim, please reassure them that it's not their fault and that there is help available through the ACCCE and our partners."
“Conversations with children and young people about the risks online need to be open and honest, and victims need to be made to feel supported and understood.”
The ACCCE continues to encourage school communities to share this important message including seeking opportunities to display posters and other materials on school campuses and online. A range of resources is available on the ACCCE website.
Through its ThinkUKnow education program, the AFP has also developed the online blackmail and sexual extortion response kit that includes key indicators that an online interaction may be a sign of financial sextortion and how to get help and support.
If you, or someone you know is a victim of this crime and under the age of 18, we encourage you to report online at the ACCCE - www.accce.gov.au/report.
If you become aware of naked or sexual images shared online without consent eSafety can help to quickly remove this content by reporting through eSafety.gov.au/report
TIPS FOR A VICTIM OF FINANCIAL SEXTORTION
- Stop the conversation
- Collect evidence (screenshots)
- Block the account (the most critical preventative action)
- Seek help from police or the ACCCE (www.accce.gov.au)
- Seek support; you are not alone and it is not your fault.
TIPS FOR PARENTS AND GUARDIANS
If your child is a victim of online child sexual exploitation, they need your support:
- Ensure your child is safe
- Be approachable, avoid reacting with anger or blame
- Collect evidence of the offending
- Seek help from police or the ACCCE (www.accce.gov.au)
- Engage in wellbeing and support services.
The AFP and its partners are committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse and the ACCCE is driving a collaborative national approach to combatting child abuse.
The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into online child sexual exploitation and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.
Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse and are urged to contact the ACCCE at www.accce.gov.au/report. If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.
Research conducted by the ACCCE in 2020 revealed only about half of parents talked to their children about online safety.
If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available at www.accce.gov.au/support.
Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protect children online can be found at www.thinkuknow.org.au, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.
Note to media:
Use of term 'CHILD ABUSE' MATERIAL NOT 'CHILD PORNOGRAPHY'
The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.
Use of the phrase "child pornography" is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:
- indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
- conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.
Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297