His mother raved about the “amazing weekend of football” her son, 15-year-old Braden Markus, had on the weekend of October 21, 2021. The Ohio teen’s mother wrote on Facebook that her son ordered his favorite food in honor of the occasion, and then “spent the rest of the night doing homework, playing Xbox with his cousins, and sleeping.”
Braden’s mom, Jennifer Argiro-Markus, chimed in, “Typical life of a teenager.”
Braden committed suicide a little over twenty-four hours later. His loved ones think he may have been subjected to cyber “sextortion.” A criminal investigation into the matter has been launched by local authorities.
‘I am only 15, why are you doing this to me?’
After Braden started studying for his driver’s education test and other schoolwork the next morning at 11:01 a.m., his mother informed him that a “cyber bully” had “friended” him on Instagram while “posing as a high school girl.”
Argiro-Markus noted that after five minutes of texting back and forth, the other party asked Braden to “message using Google Hangout.” Braden concurred, but it turned out that his online conversation partner was not who they claimed to be.
Things “went south” within 30 minutes, his mother posted on Facebook.
The online predator continued to fool her son by sending him photos of a girl she claimed to be. Even after Braden’s mother wrote that he had been “hounded” for five minutes to send a picture, Braden had repeatedly declined, citing his young age.
‘The hacker kept the pressure up,’ Braden’s mother wrote. “The hacker would constantly message B on Instagram if he ever logged out of the account. In the end, B gave in and sent in a photo. It was clear that the Monster had a firm grasp on what would resonate with a 15-year-old mind because of the content and tone of the messages it posted.”
Argiro-Markus claimed her son was threatened by the predator and told to pay $1,800 or “else the monster” would release the photo of Braden and other photos taken from Braden’s Instagram account.
She wrote that the duration of the messages was 27 minutes. “B cried out several times in his final minutes, “I’m only 15; why are you doing this to me?” “I’m only 15 years old and you’re going to ruin my life.” In some ways, I’m glad I never stumbled upon this thread, but alas, here we are.” (Argiro-Markus wrote in her blog post that she had to go to court to have Apple unlock her son’s phone and see what had been going on for the previous ten months.)
Braden committed suicide at 11:28 a.m.
Argiro-Markus said to TODAY Parents, “He was the kid that was literally loved by everyone, family, friends, teachers, you name it.” “Everywhere he went, his smile was the spotlight. Playing Xbox with his cousins and pulling pranks with his pals were among his favourite things to do in his spare time.”
Through the Braden Markus Memorial Scholarship Fund, Argiro-Markus hopes to both honour her son’s memory and spread awareness about the dangers of child exploitation on the internet to other parents.
“You should have a conversation with your children about the dangers of cybercrime. Insist to them repeatedly that their lives are not worth the risk of making the wrong choice to come to you “A Facebook post from mom. You can’t warn kids about predators if you don’t know about them, and we can’t help them if we don’t speak up and warn them.
What is online or cyber sextortion?
Donna Hughes, president and CEO of Enough is Enough, a non-profit organisation dedicated to preventing the internet-enabled exploitation of children, told TODAY that “sextortion is a term that is being used in recent years to describe a type of extortion in which a predator will use a sexually explicit image or video of another person in order to either engage with them in a sexual or exploitive relationship online or offline, or to exploit money from their victims.”