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How to fight back against sextortion – and avoid being a victim

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 24: Bella Thorne attends the LA premiere of Universal Pictures' "J.T. Leroy" at ArcLight Hollywood on April 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
She beat the hacker to it on Saturday, sharing the photos herself to Twitter, telling the hacker, “it’s MY DECISION” and “NOW U DON’T GET TO TAKE YET ANOTHER THING FROM ME.”
Thorne continued on the post, saying, “I feel gross, I feel watched, I feel someone has taken something from me that I only wanted one special person to see.
“I can sleep tonight better knowing I took my power back,” she continued, “U can’t control my life u never will.”

“This is PR 101,” Debbie Dujanovic said on Tuesday’s Dave and Dujanovic. “Get out ahead of it.”

“But as a mom, I’d say ‘why in the world would you take those photos, to begin with?'” she continued.

Sextortion is a growing crime

Thorne reported this case to the FBI and has the fame and the platform to pull a power move like this, Debbie says, but that isn’t really an option for the everyday teen or young woman.

Sextortion, Debbie says, is the fastest growing crime on the internet right now, and is becoming ever more prevalent. It is this sort of sextortion that took the life of Utah 16-year-old Tevan Tobler.

Tobler was an honor student, a champion wrestler, and former president of the National Junior Honor Society and came from a good home. His death by suicide in September of 2017 was a shock to all who knew him.

Then, several weeks after his death, Tobler’s parents found evidence the teen had received over 1,000 texts from an unknown number, sometimes as frequently as every 30 seconds.

The sheriff’s office then found that an app had been downloaded onto his phone. Someone – a female or someone posing as a female – had encouraged Tevan to send an explicit video of himself.

Then, the person authorities believe was based on the Ivory Coast, threatened to release that video unless Tobler paid them money.

Tevan had made a mistake that he didn’t know how to fix. And he feared he was going to lose everything he had spent all his life working for, his parents said.

“There’s an open conversation that we need to have with our children,” Dave Noriega said on Tuesday’s Dave and Dujanovic show. “We need to be proactive and talk with our kids.”

“We’ve talked about this before,” Debbie added, “and this can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s an important conversation to have because sextortion is the fastest growing crime on the internet.”

How to stay safe and talk to your kids

Dave and Debbie shared a number of tips for parents and teens to prevent sextortion. They include:

  • Don’t take compromising photos (and make sure your kids know not to, also) in the first place. The best way to make sure that no embarrassing photos of yourself are released is to never have them available to begin with. Regardless of whether you never plan to share those photos, just having them on your phone leaves you vulnerable to sextortion later.
  • Supervise your child or teen’s internet and mobile device use. Parents can and should check up on what their kids are doing on their phones or other devices. Kids should know their parents may check their devices at any time.
  • Keep the communication lines open. Make sure your child knows that no matter what their concern might be, there is nothing so bad that they can’t bring it to you.
  • Use (and teach your children) good security habits — strong passwords, firewalls, etc. Don’t open attachments you’re not expecting.

“You don’t know if you’re going to be hacked, you don’t know if your friend is going to steal your phone and send it around to others,” Debbie said. “We all think it’ll never happen to me.”

More Resources:

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center

Sextortion- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

How to get your explicit content off the internet