Top News

Digital photo causing grief for local teenager


TRURO - A local teenager didn't think before hitting the send button and now it's coming back to haunt her.

The teen, who didn't want to be identified, sent an explicit photo of herself to someone she thought she knew.

Now, she's been getting a number of text and Facebook messages each day from an account she hasn't been able to block.

"I'm getting up to 20 or 30 messages a day and if I don't reply, they start claiming to have pictures of myself and will expose those pictures," said the teen.

"Usually they just offer large amounts of money for pictures or videos."

Over the past month or so, the Colchester RCMP has received a few complaints, including one from the same female. Sgt. Al Affleck confirmed the female had sent the picture about a year ago.

The woman said there are about 10 or so other women she knows of that have been receiving similar messages. She doesn't know if any of the others have sent photos.

"We are all interconnected somehow," she said, adding the most recent five that she is aware of are all graduates of South Colchester Academy, such as herself.

The text messages first started for the teen about two or two-and-a-half months ago. She decided early last month to go to the police.

"They did up a report and took some statements from me and said they would do their best to track them down," she said.

The number the texts are coming from, however, isn't a registered phone number, and anyone could have set up the Facebook account.

"When it comes to young teenage girls, they're online and think they're talking to somebody that they know and they trust," said Affleck, adding the person - quite often with a female account - then asks to swap photos, without knowing who the person on the other end really is.

"Here's the issue with that. If the person takes a picture and they are under the age of consent, and they send that picture, it can be considered distributing child pornography," he said.

"It's a cyber world out there," added Affleck. "People are going onto the Internet and some of them are naïve enough to believe someone that they've just met and end up trusting them. Then they do something silly.

"What they don't realize is that footprint is there forever. They are leaving that picture out there forever."

He said what's often the case is the person will then be contacted by the individual, who says they will expose the person and their pictures or video unless they get paid not to.

"Then they're caught between a rock and a hard place. They sometimes think, ‘if I end up telling the police, they might charge me with child pornography,'" Affleck said. "It's not only happening to young people, but it's happening to adults too."

He said a similar complaint came from a local woman around 50-years-old. In this case, a man she had a relationship with threatened to expose a video of her if she didn't pay $5,000.

When it comes to someone sending messages from a Facebook account, it's not always easy to trace it to a specific owner, said Affleck.

"If I have a computer and there are seven people in my house, how can it be tracked to one individual?," he said. "I can go online and set up 100 fake accounts. You can go online and set up 100 fake accounts."

Once the account is closed, said Affleck, as is often the case, it's even harder to track that account.

"With no identifiers because the account is closed, how do we find that person?"

Affleck said laws are governed by countries, however, the Internet is a global phenomenon.

"Where are we going to have a global law about the Internet? The Internet is transient."

The sergeant offers advice for someone who has transmitted explicit photos of themselves at any point in the past.

"Call their boss. You've already put the picture on the net. Anybody can get that picture. It becomes an embarrassing situation."


Recent Stories