Stories about online predators have over the years been the bane of most parents. The primary reason for this disposition is the fact that we are now living during an epoch where technological innovations permeate our lives. With social media, predators have often had an easier time luring unsuspecting children into their elaborate traps, a concern that has seen most parents take precautionary steps. But what if the victim happens to be a 37-year old married mother of two? Well, Linda Childer’s article Sextortion: How a New Breed of Predators Exploits Victims Through Their Own Computers delves into this subject by relating Heather’s story (Childers, 2017). Her ordeal at the hands of an online predator began when her family moved to Phoenix, Arizona. This was a particularly trying time for her since her marriage was on a rough patch and further worsened by the fact that she was now in a new town and without any friends. To deal with this loneliness, she moves online and soon meets Dan* who initially claimed to be a 28-year-old gentleman, but turned out to be a fraud. Their connection rapidly develops to the point where she decides to send a nude photo (after months of prodding her) which he then uses to exploit her.
Heather’s ordeal at the hands of a professional “sextortionist” represents only a fraction of the number of victims suffering silently on a day to day basis. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) posits that sextortion is now a popular scheme employed by online predators seeking to exploit unsuspecting internet users. From the masterfully crafted article, it is clear that the perpetrator had selected Heather after careful examination. The individual using Dan* as his online pseudonym knew ,well enough, everything that Heather was going through at this particular point in her life and sought to exploit her using her vulnerabilities. Luring her into an online relationship was the first step, which had been executed with surgical precision. He did this by providing her with a sense of comfort that she seemed to be missing in her marriage of 11 years. In my opinion, knowing the problems that victims might be going through serves as a gateway for any online predator to gaining access to their victim’s lives. Nonetheless, it is striking how a 37-year-old would be duped to a point where she voluntary decides to send a nude image of herself to a man she barely even knew.
Linda Childer’s article provides readers with a glimpse into the evolution of cybercrime. This morphing means that no one is immune to future attacks that are now reaching a wider demography. I chose this particular issue to bring to light the new breed of online predators now including adults in their list of potential victims. In the aforementioned case, the problem was nevertheless handled expeditiously by Heather’s Twitter friends who, after realizing that her account had been hacked to post the nude photos, successfully tracked to the perpetrator. By threatening to expose the married man who at the time was in his mid-60s, they managed to get the images removed. Heather’s story, therefore, serves as an essential lesson of the vitality of vigilance while engaging with anyone in contemporary cyberspace.
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