AUSTRAC, AFP, ACCCE and industry partners team up to fight child exploitation

A coordinated effort to stop the sextortion of Australian children has led to the closure of more than 500 Australian bank accounts that were linked to international organised crime syndicates. As part of Operation Huntsman, AUSTRAC, the Australian Federal Police (AFP)and the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) partnered together to stop criminal networks by targeting Australian-based money mule accounts sending money from distressed victims to international syndicates. 

What is sextortion

Sextortion, also known as sexual extortion, involves international criminals claiming to be teenagers and coercing Australian children into sending sexualised images, videos and payments online. The criminal syndicates blackmail child victims with threats to share their pictures and videos unless they send the offenders money, gift cards or online gaming credits. In some instances where victims are unable to pay, the victim can become a money mule and be instructed to open bank accounts to enable criminals to move money through the accounts. Evidence shows that more than 90 per cent of victims are males aged between 15 and 17; however, victims as young as 10 years old have been identified. 

How serious is this issue

The AFP-led ACCCE received an average of over 100 reports each month in 2022 for sextortion offences – this is a 100 per cent increase from the previous year. Police fear the true number of victims in Australia is much higher, with conservative estimates indicating that less than a quarter of minors report the sextortion to police.

What has Operation Huntsman achieved to date

Operation Huntsman has disrupted more than 100 people operating more than 500 Australian bank, financial services and digital currency accounts linked to international organised criminals sexually extorting Australian children.

AUSTRAC is working with financial services providers to obtain more than 1,000 Australian bank and financial services account details with links to international criminals to take action against hundreds more people that are facilitating the flow of money out of Australia. 

AUSTRAC, ACCCE, AFP intelligence and covert online operatives are targeting criminals in Australia and internationally, taking away their ability to move money offshore gained through targeting and exploiting Australian children. AUSTRAC and AFP are also working with domestic and international law enforcement partners on several investigations.

What can I do to stop this crime and support my customers

Your suspicious matter reports are vital in our fight against this heinous crime. Reporting suspicious matter reports with either the known or suspected crime (for example – sextortion) associated with the suspicious activity will ensure an accurate and complete picture is captured.

AUSTRAC’s Fintel Alliance developed a financial crime guide in partnership with the ACCCE and AFP to help you understand, identify and report suspicious financial transactions related to sextortion and other types of child sexual exploitation.

Download the financial crime guide – Combating the sexual exploitation of children for financial gain (PDF, 3.47MB).

For support for parents, carers and victims, you can view the AFP's online blackmail and sexual extortion response kit, which was developed as part of its ThinkUKnow education program. This kit includes resources for how to identify sexual extortion and how to seek help.