Online sexual extortion, or “sextortion”, has emerged as a significant issue in the digital age where individuals are manipulated into sending intimate images or videos of themselves, and are then financially extorted to prevent these materials from being released.

This can have a devastating impact on victims and has led to some young people in Australia and other countries self-harming.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has announced that it is working with a global taskforce that will work to combat criminals financially sextorting youth.

In this article we explore the rising threat of sextortion, how it is committed, and the role of the Virtual Global Taskforce in combatting this pervasive crime.


The rising threat of financial sextortion

The AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) recently reported a 100-fold increase in reports of financial sextortion followed by a further 60 percent surge during the summer school holidays.

Organised offshore criminal syndicates typically target teenage males to conduct sextortion campaigns. Victims believe they are sending explicit images or videos of themselves to a person their own age. However, upon receiving the explicit materials, the adult offenders demand money in return for the images or videos not being released to friends, family or online.

Victims often do not report the incident because they feel like they have done something wrong and will be punished by parents or carers, or prosecuted by police if their actions are discovered.


The role of the Virtual Global Taskforce

The Virtual Global Taskforce is an alliance of 15 international law enforcement agencies including the AFP, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), New Zealand Police, and INTERPOL.

The taskforce will enable global law enforcement to share expertise, boosting their ability to take rapid coordinated action against the rising threat of financial sextortion.

AFP Acting Commander of the ACCCE Detective Jayne Crossling said “Our intelligence suggests this threat will be ongoing, which goes to the importance of the international partnerships to disrupt, deter and take action against these offenders.”

Law enforcement agencies will also be working to impede the flow of money from victims to offshore syndicates. For example, in December 2022, more than 500 Australian bank, financial services and digital currency accounts linked to offshore organised criminals sexually extorting Australian teenagers were shut down under a multi-jurisdictional, AFP-led operation.


Key takeaways

The fight against global financial sextortion is a complex and ongoing battle that requires a concerted effort from global law enforcement agencies in sharing expertise and resources.

The Australian Federal Police is working with the Virtual Global Taskforce, an alliance of 15 international law enforcement agencies, to combat the rising threat of global financial sextortion.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in complex international criminal law matters involving multi-jurisdictional investigations.

Contact us if you require assistance.