How do we protect teenagers from sextortion scams? – podcast | News

On the evening of December 29, 16-year-old Murray Dowie was with his family at their home in Dunblane, Scotland. As they sat together watching TV, Murray talked about saving money for a summer vacation with his friends.

Around 9:30 p.m. he went up to his bedroom.

“That was the last time I saw him alive,” he says Ross DowieMurray’s mother.

That night, he became the target of a sexual blackmail scammer and took his own life.

“He was tricked into thinking he was talking to a young girl and shared an intimate photo with her,” Ross told the Guardian’s correspondent in Scotland. Libby Brooks. “As soon as he did that, it became very clear that he was not talking to a young girl but to criminals in Nigeria who immediately started extorting [him] … and threatens to share the photo with all his contacts.”

Murray’s parents, Ross and Mark, are now raising awareness of the crime, which often targets young men. They argue that social media companies need to do more to protect teenagers like Murray.

“We’ve talked a lot about the dangers of social media, and I’ve always warned that you don’t know who you’re talking to,” says Ross. “So we had these chats. It’s not like we didn’t talk, we were a very open family.

“That’s the hardest thing to deal with, he didn’t just come. But after addressing the issue of sexual extortion, the scammers are ruthless… they just send the kids into such a frenzied panic.

In the UK and Ireland you can contact Samaritans on freephone 116 123 or email jo@ samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 988 or chat for support. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis text line counselor. In Australia, the Lifeline crisis support service is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at friends.org

Mark and Ross Dowie, Murray Dowie's parents (Photo: Murdo MacLeod)

Photo: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

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