County extortion uptick leads to sheriff’s office warning

Peoria County Sheriff
Peoria County Sheriff(25 News/Heart of Illinois ABC)
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 12:01 PM CST
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PEORIA COUNTY (25 News Now) - The Peoria County Sheriff’s Office is warning of a local increase in online extortions.

The sheriff’s office says most of the victims have been teenage boys being blackmailed and threatened with having personal explicit images or videos released on the internet.

The compromising images/videos may have been provided willingly during a flirtatious online exchange or recorded without the individual’s knowledge. In many cases, the blackmailers are communicating through fake accounts and may have sent images as well.

Suspects are primarily overseas and request payment through gift cards. The sheriff’s office says they have an investigator that is assigned to the United States Secret Service that has been investigating all reports.

The sheriff’s office has these tips if you find yourself targeted:

  • Remember, the blackmailer is to blame, not you. Even if you made a choice you regret, what they are doing is a crime.
  • Contact the Police. Do not send any money and/or comply with the blackmailer. Cooperating or paying rarely stops the blackmail.
  • Report the account via the platform’s safety feature.
  • Block the suspect but DO NOT DELETE your profile or messages because that can be helpful in stopping the blackmailer and investigating the incident.
  • There is no way to tell if the blackmailer will release the explicit content or not. The PCSO has investigated cases where the content was released and where it has not.
  • Communicate with your children about Internet/Social Media safety.
  • Visit NCMEC’s website, www.missingkids.org, for further information/support