HOUGHTON COUNTY, Mich. (WJMN) – The Houghton County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) issued a public safety announcement on Wednesday after community members reported possible extortion schemes on social media and through text messages.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, some of the messages received have started with simple conversation. Those conversations progressed to an exchange of photos in which some of them are lewd. The victims of the schemes are then pressured into paying money to keep from having the personal pictures distributed to friends and or family.

HCSO suggests if you don’t know the person sending the messages do not open them and do not respond to them. 

According to the FBI, “Sextortion can start on any site, app, or game where people meet and communicate. In some cases, the first contact from the criminal will be a threat. The person may claim they already have a revealing picture or video of a child that they will share if the victim does not send more pictures. More often, however, this crime starts when young people believe they are communicating with someone their own age who is interested in a relationship or with someone who is offering something of value. The adult will use threats, gifts, money, flattery, lies, or other methods to get a young person to produce an image.

After the criminal has one or more videos or pictures, they threaten to share publish that content, or they threaten violence, to get the victim to produce more images. The shame, fear, and confusion children feel when they are caught in this cycle often prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse. Caregivers and young people should understand how the crime occurs and openly discuss online safety.”

HCSO asks that everyone is careful with the information you share online. They ask parents to talk with children about the signs of these scenarios and the danger of sharing personal information and images online.

Call your local sheriff’s office or local law enforcement agency with any questions, or to report any cases of potential exploitation or victimization by schemes such as this.