Scammers are everywhere, and they have no compassion for who they target or the damage it causes. Their evil behavior was again thrust into the limelight as a teen committed suicide after falling victim to a scam.
California resident Ryan Last struck up an online conversation with someone he believed to be a girl. The back-and-forth text messages continued until past midnight on a weekday. By early morning, he had taken his own life.
Read on for the tragic events that led to the suicide and ways you can protect kids from these types of scams.
Here’s the backstory
Last spent hours on his mobile phone, having an online conversation with someone pretending to be a girl who liked him. It quickly turned intimate when the imposter sent an explicit photo to the 17-year-old and asked for one in return.
Against his better judgment, he sent a compromising photo of himself. As soon as the picture made it to the recipient, the sextortion scam began. The scammer revealed his identity and immediately made a demand for $50,000. If Last didn’t pay, the scammer threatened to leak the graphic photo to his friends and family.
The straight-A student negotiated the blackmail amount, with the scammer eventually agreeing to only $150. Last used money from his college fund to pay the fee, but the scammer kept pushing for more even after receiving payment.
According to CNN, Last left a suicide note explaining his deep shame. “He really, truly thought in that time that there wasn’t a way to get by if those pictures were actually posted online. His note showed he was absolutely terrified. No child should have to be that scared,” his mother, Pauline Stuart, told CNN.
What you can do about it
These types of sextortion scams are unfortunately common. Law enforcement defines it as someone blackmailing another over explicit or compromising photos or videos. Last’s case is under investigation by the FBI.
It’s unthinkable, but last year the FBI investigated over 18,000 sextortion cases where victims paid more than $13 million to scammers. An FBI Supervisory Special Agent told CNN that the scammers often originate from African or Southeast Asian countries.
It might be challenging to talk to your children about sensitive topics as a parent. It’s even more challenging for teenagers to approach their parents or guardians with a troubling issue. To reduce the stress that technology can cause, Kim created a Kid’s Contract that parents can use with their children.
By having an “official” household policy on what is acceptable and how to communicate any concerns, the contract reassures kids that parents have their best interest at heart. Tap or click here for more details on this helpful safety contract.
Don’t forget to share this post with family and friends who have children to help keep them safe.