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Kent County Sheriff’s Department warning school districts and parents about coercive social media crime

Kent County Sheriffs Department patch
Kent County Sheriffs Department

Law enforcement asking parents discuss online behavior addressing uptick in "Sextortion."

Law enforcement agencies across the country are working together warning of a relatively new social media crime. It targets students who are users of Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office is sharing the warning with area school districts who are now making parents aware of a social media crime known as Sextortion.

An adult perpetrator makes contact through one of the social media platforms initiating a friendship. Once established a nude photo of a stranger is sent with the understanding the victim will return a nude image of themselves.

Once that happens, the extortion begins with threats the image will be passed to friends, family and elsewhere unless an online payment is made.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office warns that victims who have paid are often harassed with demands to pay more money.

Parents are being asked to have a conversation with their children about social media use. It begins with an awareness that any online actions are permanent and not everyone who communicates online is who they say they are. If you don’t know someone personally online, ignore or block them. And when it comes to sexually explicit activity, never engage in it understanding that sending nude photos of anyone under the age of 18, including yourself, can be a crime. All of these things should be reported to a parent, guardian or law enforcement.

Victims or children who suspect they’re being solicited online are asked to contact their School Resource Officer, OK2SAY.com Silent Observer or the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.