Saskatchewan RCMP warns of rise in sextortion scams targeting youth

Brandon Harder/Regina Leader-Post. RCMP Staff Sgt. Scott Lambie stands at the door of the Saskatchewan Internet Child Exploitation unit's office.

RCMP says the rate of police-reported incidents of online child sextortion has more than doubled across the country over the last decade.

Regina Leader-Post Staff

A rise in “financially-motivated” online sextortion scams aimed at Saskatchewan youth has prompted a warning from the RCMP.

Financial sextortion is described by police as a form of blackmail that involves someone online threatening to send sexual images or videos of a victim to others if they are not paid.

“Financial sextortion is not a new concept, but has been evolving with the complexity of social media in the last year and continues to affect more and more youth,” said an RCMP news release issued Monday morning.

Police say the scams typically target youth of all genders between the ages of 13 and 16.

In reports received by RCMP, which the release says prompted an investigation, victims were approached by individuals identifying as females of a similar age online or through apps. After initial contact was made, victims were asked for their Instagram username to exchange intimate photos which were then used as blackmail.

“What we want victims of any age to know, is that they are not to blame, they will not get in trouble for reporting it, and most importantly, there is life after something like this happens,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Lambie of the Saskatchewan RCMP major crimes branch in the release. “There are people and resources available to help you and there are tools that exist to remove the image online.”

“Remember, you are not alone,” he added.

The rate of police-reported incidents of online child sexual exploitation has more than doubled across the country over the last decade, the release noted.

In the 2022-23 fiscal year, Saskatchewan RCMP says its Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit responded to 931 cases. That number is anticipated to surpass 1,000 in 2023-24. Police say investigations are ongoing and no charges have been laid.

Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about online activity. RCMP says children should never respond to messages or friend/follow requests from strangers, not send photos to strangers and to always answer video calls with the camera turned off until the person who is calling is identified.

If a child is targeted, RCMP recommends reporting it to local police or online through, immediately stopping all contact with the suspect, ensuring the victim does not comply with the threat and says to keep any correspondence between the victim and suspect.