OREM, Utah (ABC4) — With just over half of 2023 finished, Orem Police say they’re seeing extortion and blackmail attempts skyrocket compared to the previous five years.

In a Facebook post this afternoon, Orem Police showed a remarkable spike in offenses, which the overwhelming majority consisted of blackmail via explicit photos sent through social media.

Courtesy Orem Police Department

Police shared a number of unfortunate statistics to match the chart above:

  • More than 95% of the reported incidents involved sending explicit images through social media.
  • More than 80% of the reported incidents involved the use of social media to blackmail the victim.
  • More than 80% of the reported incidents involved someone under the age of 30.
  • Almost 25% of reported cases involved minors being extorted.

As a result, victims have given thousands of dollars to scammers in 2023, police stated, which is something no one should do, as the scammers will just keep extorting you.

“Be safe on social media,” stated the Facebook post. “Don’t send sensitive images or information to strangers.” Police also recommended immediately filing a police report upon an extortion or blackmail attempt. You should also block the person trying to extort you.

Utah law defines extortion as when a person threatens to cause physical harm in the future to the person threatened, including physical confinement or restraint. Threats may also include accusing a person of a crime and exposing them to hatred, contempt, and ridicule; revealing information the victim wants to be concealed; bringing a strike or boycott; or taking a person’s personal property.

Whether extortion is punished as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on how much a person tries to steal from the victim.

In 2022, the FBI reported that at least 3,000 children — mostly teenage boys — were victims of extortion after they were tricked into sending sexually explicit photos of themselves. Dozens of suicides were also linked to similar activity, according to the Associated Press.