RCMP are warning the public of the latest trick employed by online scammers. Sextortion is used to extract a ransom from victims under threat of posting fake sexually explicit images of their targets to social media. 

Corporal Shea Argue, with the Pembina Valley detachment, says the primary targets are teenagers and young adults, but notes older adults are vulnerable as well.

"A suspect online is contacting a young adult or a teenager posing as a member of the opposite sex, usually using a fictitious identity that they've stolen from the Internet. They strike up a friendship with this person through social media. They then use that friendship, quickly turn it sexual, sharing nude and explicit images and videos with the person and asking for the same in return. Usually when the victim does so, what follows is some threats to share this stuff on social media with family and friends unless the victim pays them a ransom."

RCMP have have also seen extortionists use an image of a victims face super-imposed on a video or photo to make it appear they are taking part in a nude or sexual act. Argue adds, people using open profiles on social media seem to be most vulnerable. 

He says sextortion scenarios are happening at an increasing rate in the Pembina Valley.

"I would probably say that for every report that we see, there's probably ten people that this has happened to, or that this has been attempted on, that have not reported it to police as well. But we always say to people whenever they come to us, don't be embarrassed about falling victim. The sooner that you report incident, the greater likelihood we have of being able to intervene."

Police suggest the following to avoid falling victim to this type of scams:

-Talk to your kids and educate them about safe internet communication practices

-Never share nude or intimate videos/photos of yourself with someone online

-Never answer video calls or friend requests from people you do not know

-If you mistakenly connect with someone you don't know over live stream, immediately hang up

-Always answer video calls with the camera turned off until you know the identity of the person calling

-Don't be embarrassed about falling victim, the sooner you report the incident, the greater likelihood of Police being able to intervene

Anyone who finds themselves targeted should immediately stop communicating with the suspected scammer and report it to their local Police, said Argue. 

Child exploitation can be reported online at www.cybertip.ca.