SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Sextortion. Law enforcement says it’s a serious crime and it’s happening right here in Utah.
“Utah is not immune to any type of crime, any type of predator,” said Matt Harris, United States Marshal, for the District of Utah. “There are people who are intentionally fishing for children and teenagers to exploit them.”
Sextortion occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private, sensitive material if you don’t provide sexual images, favors or money.
It’s what a 19-year-old from South Jordan was recently arrested for. Police say Gabe Ryan Gilbert threatened dozens of teen girls into sending him nude photos of themselves.
Documents state Gilbert told one of the girls he would “expose” her if she didn’t “send a bra pic” or a “nude boobs pic” and told her if she didn’t, he would “Photoshop her face onto nudes and send them out.”
That’s just one of the many sextorting examples Harris tells ABC4 News that parents need to recognize.
“This is a wake up call for parents, again, to start paying more attention.”
He recommends parents do the following:
Familiarize yourself with the different social media apps.
“It’s time to kind of wake up and know that technology is flying by and you need to learn. You need to learn what these apps are, you need to learn what these websites are and what they do. If you want to keep your kids safe, the best thing you can do is educate yourself.”
Speak with children about potential dangers the internet and social media apps can pose, and always pay close attention to their online activity.
“Pretend you have a badge, pretend you’re a cop. Be an investigator. Investigate your children. Look at their phones, look at their computers, look at who they’re talking to, know who their friends are, know who their friends are talking to.”
Here are some tips from the Utah Attorney General’s Office to avoid becoming a victim to sextortion and what to do if you become one:
- Never send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are or who they say they are. These images could easily be shared or stolen, even by people you may trust
- Turn off your electronic devices and web cameras when you are not using them
- Keep our internet safety tips in mind
- If you receive sextortion threats, contact law enforcement or tell an adult. You are not alone, and you are not to blame
The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force tip line is 801.281.1211.