17-year-old Youngster Committed Suicide After Being Scammed

In the month of February, Ryan Last got a text message from someone he thought was a girl. The message came on a school night. Within a few hours, the straight-A student of 17 years old, a kid who was also a Boy Scout, had taken his own life.
June 8, 2022

Sextortion - A Cyber Threat to Children and Adolescents

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has noticed a significant rise in the number of incidents in which adolescents and teenagers are threatened and pressured by adults into sharing graphic photographs online. 

This type of criminal activity is known as sextortion. Sextortion can begin on any platform, including websites, apps, and games, where people can meet and engage with one another. In some instances, the criminal will issue a threat when they make their initial contact with the victim. It’s possible that the individual will say they already have a compromising photo or video of the victim’s child and threaten to release it if they don’t get any more photographs from them. 

The majority of the time, however, these criminal acts begin because young people are under the impression that they are speaking with someone of the same age who is interested in a romantic relationship or with someone who is offering something of value. To coerce a child or teenager into producing an image, an adult may employ coercive tactics such as threats, gifts, money, flattery, or lies, amongst other strategies.

After the crooks have obtained one or more videos or pictures of the victim, they either threaten to broadcast the content online, or threaten physical harm in order to coerce the victim into producing additional media. When children are trapped in this cycle, the feelings of shame, fear, and uncertainty that they experience frequently keep them from asking for help or reporting the abuse that they are experiencing. It is important for young people and their caregivers to have open conversations about how to stay safe when using the internet.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Miami has issued a warning to parents about the rise in the number of “sextortion” occurrences involving children and adolescents. “In the past, we would get maybe one ‘sextortion’ complaint a month, but now we get a few a week,” said Supervisory Special Agent Christina Bedford from the FBI office in Miami. 

“Nowadays, it’s more like a couple a week,” she added. According to the FBI, in most instances, the offender assumes the identity of a youngster and contacts children via social media or gaming applications, acting as though they are romantically interested in the children. They finally manage to deceive them into revealing sexual photographs or videos of themselves that they have taken. 

Then, in order to obtain money, they utilize those photographs as a form of leverage. “These predators are really skilled at grooming, manipulating, and winning the trust of these youngsters in order to get them to generate these sexual photographs,” said Bedford. “They are very good at getting these children to produce these sexual images.” According to the FBI, the number of ‘sextortion’ instances that have been reported in the state of Florida is on course to more than double from the previous year.

The Scam Case of Ryan

Dating Scam

During the month of February, Ryan Last received a text message from an unknown sender whom he initially mistook for a female. The online conversation swiftly moved from being casual to being personal, and then it became criminal.

The con artist, acting as a young girl, deceived Ryan by sending him a photo of herself naked and then requesting that Ryan send her an explicit photo of himself in exchange. The cybercriminal demanded $5,000 immediately after Ryan shared a private photo that he had taken of himself, threatening to make the photo public and send it to Ryan’s family and friends if he did not get his way. 

The teenager from San Jose, California, explained to the cybercriminal that he would be unable to pay the full sum, which resulted in the demand being reduced to a portion of the initial total, specifically $150. However, once Stuart had paid the con artists out of his savings for college, he said that the con artists “kept wanting more and more and placing plenty of continuing pressure on him.”

During that moment, Stuart was completely unaware of what her son was going through. She was given the information after law enforcement authorities pieced together the sequence of events that led up to her husband’s passing.

At ten o’clock in the evening, she had said Ryan goodnight and had described him as her typically upbeat kid. At two in the morning, he had fallen victim to a con and decided to end his life. Ryan wrote a note before he took his own life in which he expressed how ashamed he felt of himself and his family. Pauline claimed that as he was thinking about it at the time, “He honestly, truly thought that there wasn’t any way to get by if those photographs were actually uploaded online.” “It was clear from his note that he was shaking with fear. That level of fear should never be inflicted on a youngster.”

The deception is known as “sextortion” by law enforcement, and investigators have reported an increase in the number of complaints from victims. This has prompted the FBI to step up their campaign to alert parents from coast to coast.

According to the FBI, there were more than 18,000 complaints related to sextortion in 2021, and victims reported losing more than $13 million. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it is a significant offense for offenders to exploit child pornography to entice potential victims. CNN has been informed by both Stuart and the FBI that the investigation into Last’s case is still active. 

“To be a criminal that specifically targets children — it’s one of the more deep violations of trust I think in society,” says FBI Supervisory Special Agent Dan Costin, who leads a team of investigators working to counteract crimes against children. Costin is the leader of a group of investigators who are working to prevent crimes against children. 

According to Costin, the majority of the sextortion scams that have been reported to the FBI have been proven to have originated from criminals on the African continent as well as in Southeast Asia. According to Costin, federal investigators are collaborating with their law enforcement counterparts throughout the world to assist in the identification and arrest of individuals who prey upon children via the internet.


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How Can Adults Help Someone Experiencing Sextortion & Scams?

One difficulty for the FBI is that a significant number of people who have experienced sextortion do not disclose the occurrences to law authorities. 

According to the opinions of various medical professionals, there is a primary reason why young men are more susceptible to cons related to sextortion. According to Dr. Scott Hadland, who is the chairman of adolescent medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, “Teen brains are still developing.” “So when something awful happens, like a personal photo is exposed to others online, it is difficult for them to look past that moment and grasp that in the grand scheme of things, they will be able to get over this,” says the author. According to Hadland, it is also extremely important for parents to provide explicit warnings to their children about cons such as sextortion, but without embarrassing their children.

“You want to make it plain that they can talk to you if they have done anything or if they feel like they’ve made a mistake,” he added. “You want to make it appear that they can talk to you if they feel like they’ve made a mistake.”

Chargebackway advise you to remain vigilant. Stay updated for more news and alerts.


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