Montana Sees Major Increase in Online Child Exploitation Tips

Montana Sees Major Increase in Online Child Exploitation Tips

The Montana Department of Justice announced today that in the first six months of 2020, the state’s cyber tips related to internet crimes against children rose by nearly 70% compared to the same period last year.

From January through June of 2019, 244 cyber tips were reported for Montana. This year, 412 cyber tips were reported in the first six months. The cyber tips are software-detected images and videos of child explicit material with known IP addresses.

Internet service providers are required by law to report this information to the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children. Next, the cyber tips are assigned to the appropriate state Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) Task Force for follow up. The Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) manages the Montana ICAC Task Force, which consists of one DCI agent, two DCI forensic examiners, and several members from Montana police and Sheriff’s departments, the Montana Department of Corrections, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and Homeland Security Investigations. ICAC investigators are trained to investigate reports of children being victimized through computers or other online technology, and work with state and federal prosecutors to prosecute offenders in state and federal courts.

As of today, Montana stands at fewer than 50 tips away from the total received for all of 2019. Attorney General Tim Fox said, “We attribute this alarming increase to children being at home more since the pandemic began. As a result, they’re more active on social networking and gaming sites, where predators contact them to obtain nude photos.” Fox advised, “Pay close attention to which apps your children have on their phones and with whom they’re engaging online. Parental involvement is the first step to reducing the harm cyber criminals can do to your children.”

Montana’s recent ICAC cyber tips data:

2019 January – June 2020
Traveling for the purpose of sex with a minor 10 7
Enticing/soliciting a minor for sex 59 48
Obscenity toward a minor 61 17
Manufacturing child pornography 136 76
Distributing child pornography 174 67
Possessing child pornography 302 175

DCI Crime Information Bureau Chief/Montana ICAC Task Force Commander Gary Seder offered a number of ways parents can prevent their children from getting victimized online. “First, set rules for your children’s internet usage and look through their social media accounts periodically. Check to see if they’ve installed messaging apps like Discord, Kik, or Snapchat, and if they’re communicating in those apps via group settings or by individual chats. Predators will often ‘meet’ children in group chats, then groom them through private messages to gain their trust and ask or demand the child send increasingly intimate photos,” Seder said.

Seder also recommends parents maintain a good rapport with their children so they’ll disclose anything unsettling they encounter online. “In the event something does happen, don’t blame your child, and don’t delete the photos or chats that were sent. Above all, don’t try to communicate with the predator yourself. The best thing to do is secure your child’s device, so law enforcement will have needed evidence to build and charge a case,” Seder advised.

For more information about online safety, visit NetSmartz. Due to the pandemic, in-person educational outreach to schools or groups is available on a limited basis. Montana ICAC Task Force members are working to develop a variety of age-appropriate virtual presentations. For more information, contact Gary Seder at [email protected] or (406) 444-9759.

Last year, the Montana ICAC Task Force members gave 239 school presentations across Montana, reaching more than 13,700 students.

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