Police in Australia say a crew of underage teens, are accused of extorting older men that they met over the gay dating app Grindr.
Authorities have launched a probe into a reported blackmail scam, in which the teenagers threatened to “out” their victims as pedophiles unless they provided them with cash and cell phones, The Canberra Times, an Australian newspaper, reported.
Police began taking action after the AIDS Action Council in Canberra started to receive reports of extortion.
Last week, four teens between the ages of 15 and 18-years-old were charged with offenses linked to the purported scam. Three of the males are underage, and their identities cannot be revealed for legal reasons.
Police collected digital evidence from the boys’ cell phones.
According to The Canberra Times, the suspects created entire documents on their victims, including pictures, screenshots of messages and potential crimes they had committed.
They would then demand $750 and cell phones, and threatened to report the men to the police if they didn’t comply with their requests.
Prosecutors said the suspects reached out to the men through Grindr or Facebook and, when meeting face-to-face, informed them that they’d been interacting with minors.
One boy reportedly told one victim: “We’re the pedo hunters.”
It is believed that there close to 10 offenders, and up to 15 men were victimized.
In January, the AIDS Action Council warned of perpetrators using a related scam on Grindr by threatening to “out” closeted men who were on the app.
“We’ve put out this warning to alert people that there have been a couple of incidences,” director Philippa Moss told ABC.
“(They said) that they’re going to exploit them if they don’t give them money they’re going to tell their friends and family what they’re doing.”
It’s believed that the perpetrators would gather the users’ trust online and then threaten to expose them in person if they didn’t comply with their demands.