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Aurora, Colorado law enforcement officials are investigating several reports of children being targeted with sextortion, a form of blackmail involving the threat of publishing a sexually explicit image.

The Aurora Police Department said scammers involved in sextortion often threaten to post explicit material on the internet unless they receive money from the targeted individual. Sextortion could also sometimes involve sharing explicit images with others for money.

The scheme in Aurora was first reported to a school resource officer on Jan. 16, 2024.

Since receiving the tip, additional reports related to the initial investigation have come in from students and officials at Aurora Hill and Mrachek middle schools, as well as Rangeview, Smoky Hill, Gateway, Vista Peak, Cherokee Trail and Overland high schools.

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Students in six of the incidents, police said, claimed to be direct targets of the sextortion scheme after being contacted on Instagram by the suspect or suspects.

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Investigators learned from dozens of other victims that they received unsolicited invitations to join an Instagram “Close Friends List” for money, and on the list, they could view sexually explicit material.

A Close Friends List on Instagram allows users to view private content from an account holder.

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Detectives are working to identify additional victims with the help of officials from the Cherry Creek School District and Aurora Public Schools.

Investigators also reached out to Meta, which police say is working to identify the owners of the suspect profiles, while also determining the legitimacy of the shared photos and videos.

Police said the investigation is ongoing, and they encourage anyone with information about the matter to contact a detective with the department at 303-627-3100. Police ask anyone who calls to reference case number AP2024-10276.

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