Editors note: view ThinkUKnow's Online blackmail and sexual extortion response kit
The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) is warning that Australia is seeing a global trend in the crime of sexual extortion, with a spike in the number of Australian boys being preyed on by international sex offenders, who are grooming them into producing explicit images and then extorting them for money.
The ACCCE has taken the unusual step of releasing police intelligence to warn Australian parents and carers of the emerging risk. These reports involving boys have more than quadrupled between mid-2021 and this year, driven by a sharp rise in offshore offenders targeting Australian boys for financial gain.
Commander ACCCE and Human Exploitation Hilda Sirec said while coercing and blackmailing minors for sexually-explicit videos and images was not new – it was previously very rare for police to receive reports about offenders demanding money from children.
“Tactics can vary, but child sex offenders commonly pose as girls and befriend boys via social media platforms, image-sharing apps or online games,” Commander Sirec said.
Once the pair connected, the ‘girl’ would request they communicate privately and engage in sexualised conversations before sending explicit images of her fake self, often sourced from a victim of previous offending. The boy would then be asked to send nude images or videos in return.
Commander Sirec said the predator might also manipulate the boy into engaging in explicit activity on camera, which they secretly recorded.
“These predators reveal they had footage of the child in compromising positions and demand money in return for not sharing the vision with family and friends or posting it online,” Commander Sirec said.
“We have seen predators initially demanding an impossibly large sum of money, then negotiating with the victim on a lower amount they could actually pay.
“Once that money was paid – either by bank transfer, online game, gift cards or even cryptocurrency – the predator would demand even more money. They are not deterred by the age of the victim, they care only about the profit they can make.”
The ACCCE works with many international law enforcement partners who are also seeing an increase in the number of boys being blackmailed for money.
Commander Sirec said authorities were issuing the warning to urge victims to seek help and report the crime, and that they will not be in trouble for coming forward.
“These crimes have devastating effects on children and their families,” Commander Sirec said. “These offenders are very manipulative and they will threaten and frighten children to get what they want, including telling victims they will be in trouble with law enforcement if they speak up.
“We are appealing to parents and carers to talk to their children about online safety, how to recognise suspicious behaviour online and speak out if they have been targeted.
“If your child is or has been a victim, reassure them that it's not their fault and that there is help available.
"By reporting what has happened, they may help us catch an offender and prevent other children being harmed."
Warning signs could include inconsistences with an online profile or language, meeting on one app and then being encouraged to continue a conversation on a different platform, or the person claiming their webcam or microphone was not working for video calls.
The Australian Federal Police ThinkUKnow program has developed a new resource for young people on how to recognise and respond to this method of sexual extortion. The ‘Online blackmail and sexual extortion response kit’ includes key indicators that an online interaction may be a sign of sexual extortion using de-identified reports from the ACCCE, as well as how to get help and support. More information is available at thinkuknow.org.au
If you are a victim of this crime:
- Avoid sending any more images;
- Collect evidence such as screenshots of conversations and make a report to police;
- Don’t blame yourself and speak to someone you trust for advice and support. This could be a friend, sibling, trusted adult or support service;
- Chance your passwords for all online accounts and review your privacy and security settings.
If you think a child is in immediate danger call Triple Zero, Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or your local police.
Cases of sexual extortion involving children (under the age of 18) can be reported to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation at accce.gov.au/report.
The ACCCE is committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse and is at the centre of a collaborative national approach to combatting online child sexual abuse.
The Centre brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into child sexual abuse and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.
Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.
You can also make a report online by alerting the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation via the Report Abuse button at www.accce.gov.au/report.
If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available, visit to learn more www.accce.gov.au/support
Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protection children online can be found at ThinkUKnow, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation: www.thinkuknow.org.au
Note to media:
Use of term ‘CHILD ABUSE’ MATERIAL NOT ‘CHILD PORNOGRAPHY’
The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.
Use of the phrase "child pornography" is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:
- indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
- conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.
Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297