ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan’s attorney general and the Michigan Association of School Administrators are issuing a warning to parents after two Allegan County high school students were extorted for money.
The AG calls the crime “sextortion” and describes it as online sexual exploitation that typically targets kids who are ages 10 to 17. They say the person on the other end manipulates students into sending inappropriate photos or videos of themselves and then threatens to release the content if they don’t pay or send even more graphic pictures and video.
MASA says after learning of a case last week in Allegan County, they wanted to sound the alarm.
“If we can prevent one child from falling victim to this type of activity, we’ve done a good thing this year,” Peter Spadafore with MASA said.
MASA says the two Allegan County high school students were coerced into sending sexual content of themselves through an online chatroom similar to the virtual spaces used for online learning. It wasn’t until the students attempted to pay the predator on the other end with a parent’s credit card that the plot was foiled.
In an effort to protect the identities of the students involved, MASA did not disclose the exact district where this occurred.
“These are children. These are kids that are increasingly online, increasing vulnerable to these types of activities,” Spadafore said. “We want to make sure that parents are aware, that guardians are aware that this type of stuff is happening.”
Spadafore says after speaking to law enforcement about the incident, it’s clear that this isn’t the first time this has happened.
As students are expected to be online at higher rates this year due to the pandemic, MASA provided tips to help prevent your child from falling victim to an online predator.
Both police and the AG’s office have ramped up their efforts to combat any potential sextortion.
Both agencies urge anyone who has seen or experienced something like this to call police or the anonymous student tipline OK2SAY.