Woodbury Police Investigate ‘Sextortion’ Scams

Investigators say scammers send direct messages to teenagers asking them for an explicit photo, then demand money to keep the photo private, Marielle Mohs reports (2:14) WCCO 4 News At 5 - March 25, 2021

Video Transcript

- Woodbury police are investigating several cases of online predatory scams called sextortion.

- Teenagers on Instagram are the targets. Investigators say the scammers sent direct messages to the teenagers asking them for explicit photos. Then, they demand money to keep those photos private. This crime is not just limited to Woodbury. Our Marielle Mohs spoke to investigators who have tips to keep kids safe online.

LINDA WALKER: Communication, constantly communicating with them. And that way, they feel free to do their social media by me. And I can kind of see what they're up to and know their friends better.

MARIELLE MOHS: Linda Walker nurtures open communication with her three teenage daughters, who are all on social media. But no matter what, she will always worry.

LINDA WALKER: You can't be right by their side introducing them to everybody you know. So you don't know who they're talking to.

MARIELLE MOHS: Right now, Woodbury police are investigating several cases of sextortion in the area, but say it's a state and nationwide problem. They say in most cases, these scammers are posing as women on Instagram and targeting teenage boys.

PAUL KROSHUS: This is a multilevel catfish.

MARIELLE MOHS: Woodbury detective, Paul Kroshus says online poachers are asking these teenage boys on Instagram private messaging to send them an explicit photo. Then they demand money, usually thousands of dollars. And if the teen doesn't pay, they share the explicit photo with that teenager's Instagram followers. Kroshus says this kind of crime has been happening frequently since the end of last year.

PAUL KROSHUS: The initial reports that we took in were only about a fourth of what I've actually identified as victims, which just goes to show how unreported this crime actually is.

MARIELLE MOHS: The Washington County attorney's office says the worst thing a parent can do to protect their child is to ban them from social media altogether. That will encourage them to use secret means to get online. Instead, they encourage parents to talk openly with their child about social media and setting boundaries.

IMRAN ALI: When they do have a social media page, that it is marked private, make sure to never accept a friend request from somebody unless they know them, to have no personal information on there.

MARIELLE MOHS: In Woodbury, Marielle Mohs, WCCO 4 News.

- Woodbury police have not shared any arrest details yet. A lot of the evidence they found has been linked to some IP addresses in Nigeria.