An East Tennessee man accused of extorting women he met on social media pleaded guilty, shining light on a major internet concern.
In his plea, Justin Corum admits to threatening a 16-year-old from Michigan, pressuring her to send nude photos and saying he’d publish them if she didn’t meet him for sex.
Knoxville Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit sees these types of crimes happen every day.
“Thinking they’re with a friend or with someone they trust, it turns out to not be the case,” said Lt. Warren Hamblin.
Lt. Hamblin has seen cases of sextortion on the rise. It’s a mashup of sexual extortion, otherwise known as a form of online blackmail.
“Potentially sending nude images of oneself, back and forth. The suspect will then typically become more aggressive,” said Hamblin. “Many times they’re going to friend the victim. in the case of children, a lot of time of times they will talk with them for months.”
In the beginning, those messages are just chit chat, but Lt. Hamblin says eventually that talk turns sexual. The suspect may demand more pictures, money or even want to meet in person.
“All with the threat of typically exposing them with the pictures they have obtained, to friends, family. Putting it somewhere on social media.”
The thought of being exposed is a terrifying feeling for these victims. KPD investigators typically see minors between the ages of 8 and 17 who are coerced.
Hamblin adds, “They become scared. Scared of getting caught. Afraid that their images are going to get out there. It causes them a lot of stress and anxiety and hopelessness.”
Once the threats reach a certain point, some victims come forward and finally tell someone. Law enforcement says if you find yourself in this situation, you need to get help.
Also, if you’re scrolling online, you want want to think twice before becoming friends with someone you don’t know.
If you notice that your child is spending more and more time on social media and they’re trying to hide that activity, whether its staying in their room or isolating themselves, something may be up. That’s when Knoxville police say you may need to intervene. Checking your child’s social media and having a serious talk with them could help prevent situations like this from happening.
Knoxville police say that one in four sextortion victims need to seek help for mental or medical reasons.
To report this type of crime, you can call your local police or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.