Hong Kong police warn students made up fifth of online blackmail cases involving naked photos in first half of year, with youngest victim being 11 years old

Students made up a fifth of the victims of online blackmail cases involving naked photos in the first half of the year, including an 11-year-old boy who was lured into downloading an app that implanted malware on his smartphone, Hong Kong police revealed.

The force said it wanted to raise awareness among young people to guard them against predators as 24 cases of sexual abuse in the first six months of the year involved victims under the age of 16 who had met the perpetrators online.

From January to June, police handled 833 cases of blackmail involving naked photos, 168 of which included students, Superintendent Chan Shun-ching from the cybersecurity division told a press briefing.

(From left) Eric Leung, president of the Joint Council of Parent-Teacher Associations of Shatin district; Dion Chen, chairman of the Hong Kong Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools Council; Chan Shun-ching, superintendent of the cyber security and technology crime bureau; and Chan Chi-wing, senior inspector of the bureau hold a press conference in Wan Chai. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

The youngest victim was an 11-year-old boy who met a “woman” on a dating app. As the two exchanged texts, the boy was persuaded to download a “video chat” app that turned out to be malware that ended up extracting his mother’s contact information from his phone.

Scammers took naked pictures and videos of the boy during the video chats, before sending the content to his mother and demanding she pay HK$10,000 (US$1,275) or else the footage would be made public.

Police have not been able to track down the perpetrators since the case was first reported in May. The investigation is still ongoing.

Hong Kong boy, 11, tricked into disrobing during video chat in blackmail case

“Internet scams are often concealed and cross-border in nature with a money flow that poses a lot of challenges to investigators,” said Chan, adding that officers had to constantly evolve their strategies to tackle fraudsters’ ever-changing tactics.

The 24 cases also included a girl who was found to have had sex with a man in 2021 when she was nine years old after meeting him on a dating app. The man had videotaped the encounter at his home, according to police.

Chan said the case came to light earlier this year when police were investigating a separate allegation of physical abuse suffered by the girl. The suspect has since been arrested and is being held in custody pending trial.

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The superintendent said that while teachers and parents should be conscious of the threats children might face, the most important factor was raising awareness among teenagers about potential predators on online dating apps and mobile game chat rooms. Young people should also hone their ability to verify information presented to them, he added.

“The key is really for teenagers to raise their guard against strangers online, and to raise awareness about how they can protect themselves and their privacy,” Chan said.

The risks of online game chat rooms were outlined in an in-person questionnaire survey police conducted from March to April this year that involved 1,805 primary and secondary school pupils.

Some 1,091 students said they played online games regularly, while 294 reported they had been approached by strangers in the chat rooms. Fifty-one said they had been offered free game items or even cash, while 31 had been invited to video or in-person meetings. Four received requests for photos of private body parts.

Hong Kong police log over 700 ‘naked-chat blackmail’ cases in first half of 2022

Superintendent Chan noted that while the poll showed fewer male students felt they were targeted by predators than their female counterparts, younger boys were more willing to share personal information with strangers in online chat rooms “because they were carefree or saw the other side as a friend”.

As fraudsters often quickly adopt new tactics to capture victims’ attention, the force had been providing schools with quarterly updates to ensure teachers could inform pupils about the latest patterns in online scams, Chan said.

Dion Chen, chairman of the Hong Kong Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools Council, pointed to a pressing need to educate students and the community about online risks.

“Young people went online more frequently during the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to more exposure to online scams,” he said. “We won’t see this trend decrease in the future as we’re dealing with the internet in every matter”.

The cybersecurity division said it was aiming to raise awareness of the issue through an online simulation game and a cybersecurity solution design competition that was open to all students in Hong Kong, Macau and nearby cities in Guangdong province.

Source : https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-and-crime/article/3232442/hong-kong-police-warn-students-made-fifth-online-blackmail-cases-involving-naked-photos-first-half?utm_source=rss_feed

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