Social media sugar daddies targeted local teens

GENESEE CO., Mich. (WNEM) – Scrolling through social media several times a day is routine for most teens.

“I like to see what people write about their lives, and like what they do,” said 14-year-old Asia Gray.

Goodrich Middle School eighth grade likes to post photos and videos to Instagram and TikTok.

“You want them to be teenagers, but you also have to keep an eye on everything they do, and sometimes it looks a little provocative or too sexy, maybe for their age,” said Asia’s mother Kimberly Gray.

Teenagers like Asia have become a primary target of what is called the sugar daddy on social media.

“I’m thinking, where do they come from? How do you contact my child,” Kimberly Gray asks.

Kimberly Gray’s daughter Asia has more than 100 messages from both men and women, all asking for the same thing. They want to know if the teenager will be what they call their sugar baby. In return, they promise to send large sums.

Kimberly and Asia Gray
Kimberly and Asia Gray(WNEM)

“They will say they just want a conversation and they do not want anything inappropriate from you or they will not do anything to harm you. Some offer like $ 1,000 a week or twice a week,” Asia said. Gray.

Kimberly is concerned that a child who may be in a situation where they can spend the money will accept the terms offered. She has developed a system with all her daughters when they are approached by a sugar daddy or sugar mama.

“They come and tell me it every time and then I like to see, because first I want to make sure it’s not someone I know and then I just want to see their face so I have it in my then I tell them, block that person and delete any message they sent you, “said Kimberly Gray.

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson says that’s exactly what all parents should do.

“I can not tell you how many calls I have received from people I know personally if children were involved and they are panicking because they are being blackmailed,” Swanson said.

On April 19, the FBI warned the Detroit office of an increase in sex education schemes targeting young boys.

The warning said it is sextortion. It begins when an adult contacts a minor over an online platform to communicate. The predator uses deception and manipulation to convince a younger person, usually 13 to 17 years old, to engage in explicit activity. They ask the teen to post nude pictures or videos that often promise money, but then blackmail the teen for money to prevent them from posting the material online or sharing it with their family members.

“When that happens, it happens at a rapid pace because these predators will put you under so much pressure,” Swanson said.

A teenager on the Upper Peninsula took his own life six hours after posting his first nude photo last month.

Marquette County investigators believe 17-year-old Jordan DeMay posted nude photos of himself over Instagram in exchange for photos sent to him. DeMay thought he was talking to a teenage girl.

Jordan DeMay
Jordan DeMay(DeMay Family / WLUC-TV)

The person at the other end demanded that DeMay send $ 1,000, otherwise the pictures would go to family and friends. When DeMay could only come up with $ 300, he took his own life.

A few hours after his death, Marquette County sheriff says a friend of DeMay received one of the compromising photos. This friend contacted DeMay’s parents, who then told investigators.

“It’s about money and exploitation. They do not care about the sender. They do not care about him being photographed. They do not live 50 miles from you. They live in other countries. They do not even speak your language, but this is their craft. They master this craft. This is their business, “Swanson said.

Swanson and his team of detectives have made it their mission to arm themselves with the latest technology and software to remove as much information as they possibly can from a victim’s phone.

David Custer and Captain Kariann Nelson
David Custer and Captain Kariann Nelson(WNEM)

Genesee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Kariann Nelson is extensively trained in mobile forensic examination. She says extracting information is a race against the clock. Criminals will try to remotely wipe out a victim’s phone. She has had to use an armored box to block signals transmitted to and from a victim’s phone while extracting evidence from it.

“As a mother who has a 14-year-old, I started talking to your daughter when you start talking to your daughter about the things you see as a professional, and she knows the part of getting her cell phone and possibly having “a kind of social media account was a condition for her father and I to go through it and have the passwords to things,” Nelson said.

Nelson says with all the tools in the law enforcement arsenal, that the best defense is not an armored box or the latest software, but instead a parent starting a dialogue with their child.

The FBI provides the following tips to protect you and your children online:

  1. Be selective about what you share online, especially your personal information and passwords. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator might find out a lot of information about you or your children.
  2. Be wary of everyone you meet for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
  3. Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and pictures are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
  4. Be suspicious if you meet someone in a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on another platform.
  5. Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to an adult you trust.

“I’m just a little happy that I’m having a good relationship with my mother, because like back then I feel more comfortable telling her that, and I know I will not be in trouble if I do something bad. “She knows I’m honest and she can trust me and like that I can come to her if I need help,” said Asia Gray.

Kimberly and Asia Gray
Kimberly and Asia Gray(WNEM)

Kimberly says she knows her children are not perfect and she tells them she does not expect them to be perfect.

“I hope parents can make their children feel safe enough to come to them so they never fall victim to this. I think it’s super important,” Kimberly Gray said.

You can learn more about sextortion from the FBI by clicking here.

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