An 18-year-old man will face the ACT Magistrates Court and three teenagers will face the ACT Children's Court on Friday morning for allegedly threatening and blackmailing victims they met through online dating sites.
In two separate incidents that occurred in January, the four males allegedly targeted their victims. ABC reporter Jesse Dorsett reported the victims were men, on a gay dating app.
Police told The Huffington Post Australia that they could not confirm whether the victims targeted were males or where they were targeted. However, earlier this month, the AIDS Action Council launched an awareness campaign on online safety following incidents reported to the Council of gay men in Canberra being targeted on dating and hook-up apps, including Grindr.
"[They said] 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," director Philippa Moss previously told the ABC.
"People don't necessarily admit that this is what they're doing. There is stigma and discrimination attached to using these apps for hook-ups."
The 18-year-old has been charged with one count of blackmail in order to obtain gain, while one of his alleged accomplices, a 15-year-old, was charged with blackmail and use a carriage service to menace, harass or offend.
The other offenders, two 16-year-olds, were each charged with blackmail, one on two counts.
Ben Cartwright, ACT Policing Criminal Investigations Superintendent, warned Canberra residents to be vigilant, adding that it was possible that there may be more victims.
"Often an element of blackmail is the threat not to contact the police. These victims did the right thing by coming forward and that's allowed us to identify the alleged offenders and put them before court," he said.
"Offenders may use the content of online conversations to blackmail their victims or may arrange to meet up with victims and then threaten them with violence.
"It's important that people using these sites remain aware of the possibility that the person they're talking with may not be sincere."
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