An “evil” scammer drove a 17-year-old boy to his death after posing as a girl online to get explicit pictures to use as blackmail.
Tragic Ryan Last died by suicide after a twisted troll tricked him into sending sexual pictures before threatening to show them to his family and friends if he didn’t send $5,000.
The straight A student from California told the cybercriminal he couldn’t afford to pay and the sick demand was lowered to $150, which Ryan paid from his college savings.
But the scammer kept demanding more and put pressure on the teenager before he ended his life and left a suicide note talking of his embarrassment in February this year.
Ryan’s devastated mum Pauline Stuart told CNN: “He really, truly thought in that time that there wasn’t a way to get by if those pictures were actually posted online.
“His note showed he was absolutely terrified. No child should have to be that scared.
“How could these people look at themselves in the mirror knowing that $150 is more important than a child’s life?
“There’s no other word but ‘evil’ for me… I don’t want anybody else to go through what we did.”
Cases of the “sextortion” scam have shot up in recent years as predatory online criminals target teenagers to blackmail them for cash.
There were over 18,000 complaints to the FBI in 2021 alone, with millions of dollars being paid to stop sexual pictures being uploaded online.
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Top doctor Scott Hadland said teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the scam.
She explained: “Teen brains are still developing so when something catastrophic happens, like a personal picture is released to people online, it’s hard for them to understand that in the big scheme of things they’ll be able to get through this.”
The expert warned parents to be wary of unknown people approaching their children online and pressuring them to send pictures or information.
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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