A Michigan teenager who died by suicide last week was a victim of online “sextortion”, authorities said on Tuesday.
Jordan John DeMay, 17, a student at Marquette Senior High School, died on 25 March.
Authorities from the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office believe the teen was being extorted through Instagram with pictures he had taken of himself.
The extortionist had reportedly put him under “extreme pressure” to pay him money in exchange for not releasing the pictures to his Instagram followers and family. Investigators said the time between the threats and the teenager’s death was less than six hours.
“I don’t know how they target,” Sheriff Greg Zyburt told TV6 and FOX UP. “This guy was very popular. He was athletic. He looked like Homecoming King.”
“He sent them money,” Mr Zyburt said, adding that it wasn’t enough. “They wanted more.”
One of Jordan’s friends received a compromised picture hours after his death, the sheriff said. The friend then contacted Jordan’s parents, who informed investigators but the teen had already died by then.
“The parents of Jordan have requested this information be released,” the sheriff’s office said.
“The Sheriff’s Office and the family of Jordan hope this will assist the community in their healing. We also hope this will educate others and spur courageous conversations about internet safety.”
On 24 March, the FBI had warned parents and caregivers of increasing incidents of sextortion among young children and teenagers.
“Sextortion begins when an adult contacts a minor over any online platform used to meet and communicate, such as a game, app, or social media account,” the FBI said in a statement.
“In a scheme that has recently become more prevalent, the predator (posing as a young girl) uses deception and manipulation to convince a young male, usually 14 to 17 years old, to engage in explicit activity over video, which is then secretly recorded by the predator.”
“The predator then reveals that they have made the recordings and attempts to extort the victim for money to prevent them from being posted online.”
The FBI said that sextortion is a crime and carries heavy penalties, which can also result in life sentences for the offender.
Investigators at Marquette County Sheriff’s Office said the probe into the extortionist is still underway.
In addition, a GoFundMe has also been started for the family.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.