Dear North Colonie Families,
The state police put out a serious warning about an uptick in catfishing schemes targeting teens. We wanted to alert our families so you can talk to your children today.
A teacher in our own school community is mourning the loss of her nephew due to the horrifying pressure put on him by someone who befriended him on Facebook. Alexandra Casey of Forts Ferry says her 15-year-old nephew “was manipulated and blackmailed to the point that he felt trapped and was unable to see a way out. Riley took his own life, but as many headlines state, he didn’t want to die.” Riley’s family didn’t see him spiraling out of control. Ms. Casey wanted to share this personally tragic experience with us to prevent this from happening to another child.
Investigators are seeing a trend where predators seek out teens, gain their trust, get access to photos or videos, then threaten to expose them unless the teen pays them off. In Riley’s case, it was $3,500. When teens are lured into situations, and demands are coming at them fast and furiously, it could cause a drastic reaction that can unfortunately never be taken back.
Most kids right now are using social media as a main line to have a social life during this pandemic. Please monitor the platforms they use and set rules. You can never remind them too much about the dangers that exist online. Tell them they can always come to you for help, no matter what. And if they aren’t comfortable, there are professionals that can be confidential allies. A call to the national suicide prevention hotline is picked up no matter what time of day it is. Here’s the number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
State Police offered these internet safety tips for teens:
- Be careful what you post.
- Never share personal information online. This includes full name, address, or phone number.
- Don’t accept friend requests from strangers.
- Don’t open emails, click on links, or download anything from unknown senders.
- Never share photos online or through texts or direct messages with people you don’t know.
- If you, or someone you know is having thoughts of harming yourself, talk to someone who can help.
We know that you understand there are risks with using social media, but these schemes are happening right now and we didn’t want to wait another second to reach out to you. We will be sharing more information with you next week. If you feel you have been a victim of this type of crime, please contact the Colonie Police Department.
D. Joseph Corr
Superintendent of Schools