A man who was recently arrested for allegedly impersonating Justin Bieber online in order to get nude photos from minor females is facing child pornography and extortion charges. Bryan Asrary, 24, is charged with posing as the pop star to lure minors into sending nude photos, and then threatening them if they did not send more.
It turns out this kind of online extortion is becoming one of the biggest dangers to kids online, according to an April 2016 report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Justice. The National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction reports 60 percent of survey respondents reported dealing with this type of cyber behavior. The survey respondents were comprised of more than 1,000 investigators, law enforcement managers, prosecutors, analysts, victim service providers, and Department of Justice grant recipients.
The report also showed that “sextortion cases tend to have more minor victims per offender than all other child sexual exploitation offenses.”
“Minors are more vulnerable than ever before because many of them are online with zero barriers between themselves and whatever amoral sociopath might be targeting them,” clinical psychologist Dr. Chloe Carmichael told Fox News. “Many minors take and send photos of themselves in compromising positions out of a desire for attention, or a misguided belief that this makes them mature.”
Anti-revenge porn activist Dr. Charlotte Laws says sextortion "is about exerting power, and it is a form of blackmail. It is sexual abuse and has led to suicides. Victims tend to withdraw from family members and experience severe emotional trauma.”
Laws said there are two main sextortion ploys.
“The first is trust-related. The perpetrator tricks a victim into trusting him (or her) and into providing compromising photos or video,” Laws said. “The second is the malware-related ploy, which secretly shifts on a victim’s webcam.The perpetrator is able to capture and save nude images. He can later extort money from the victim or scam her into providing additional compromising material.”
Bruce Anderson, Director of Cyber Investigations & Intelligence at Cyber Investigation Services LLC, says “Children are easy to manipulate. Once they think they’ve done something bad like send a naked photo, they become an ongoing source to fuel child pornography. Parents know what your kids are doing on their devices. Sextortionists can absolutely destroy children.”
Should someone become a victim of sextortion, Carrie Goldberg, an Internet and sexual privacy lawyer at C. A. Goldberg, PLLC, says victims should go to the police and talk to an attorney to learn their state’s laws on sexual blackmail.
“If somebody is the victim of a extorter, the first thing they need to do is stop engaging with the offender, even if he or she provides a deadline. Depending on the circumstances and state, coercion, harassment and other laws may be triggered even if that state does not have a specific sextortion bill,” said Goldberg. “The victim should erase no evidence, even embarrassing evidence, and take screenshots of everything, including whatever social media accounts the offender is using. Report it to the police. Tell a lawyer especially if the offender is anonymous, lawyers can help de-anonymize. Tell a friend.”
Dr. Laws has additional tips for protecting yourself from sextortion:
- Cover your webcam with a sticker or tape. Turn off your computer when not in use, and unplug your stand-alone webcam.
- Never send compromising photos or video to anyone, regardless of who they are.
- Be careful about all online interaction. Never say or do anything that you would not want known to the world. Be aware that there are hundreds of predators online, and many are located overseas (and thus out of reach by law enforcement).
- Use strong passwords and do not open unexpected attachments. Also, be sure your computer anti-virus is up-to-date.