Since July of 2013, Red Deer RCMP have received five complaints of extortion by libel from victims within the City.
These situations generally involve males being approached online by females who lure them into compromising online encounters. The female suspects then approach their victims again, claiming to have recorded the encounter and threatening to post it online unless they are paid by their victims.
“It’s difficult to lay charges in cases like this, because these online profiles are fake and often they live in different countries,” says Cpl. Sarah Knelsen with Red Deer RCMP.
“Our advice, always, is to use the privacy settings on social media accounts, to be very cautious about whom you befriend online, and to not let anyone – friends or strangers – talk you into doing anything that you wouldn’t want your family, your employer or your friends to see.”
RCMP say instances of people being talked into taking and sharing compromising photos and videos of themselves are on the rise. “People feel safe using apps such as SnapChat, where they believe their photos are disappearing within seconds,” says Knelsen. “In reality, every time a new technology or a new update on existing technology comes along, it is followed by work-arounds by those who want to abuse it.”
RCMP suspect there may be even more instances of this type of extortion, but that victims may be too embarrassed to report it. These are relatively new issues, brought on by the popularity of social media, and its ensuing misuse by predators. Before July of 2013, there were no reported cases of extortion by libel in Red Deer.
“Social media has so many great benefits but, as police, we see so many examples of the dark side of it,” says Knelsen. “People need to be aware of two vital things: your online actions do not disappear, and the online world is rife with predators.”