Freshman South Carolina lawmaker Brandon Guffey doesn't want any other parent to go through the grief and horror he experienced last July, when his 17-year-old son Gavin killed himself hours after he was targeted in an "sextortion" scam. After Gavin shot himself, his family discovering that he had been talking on Instagram to scammers posing as a female volleyball player at a North Carolina university, the Post and Courier reports. After he was persuaded to send nude photos of himself, the scammers immediately demanded money, saying the photos would be shared online if he didn't pay up. He sent them $25, saying it was all he had in his account at the time.
He pleaded for more time and shot himself with his father's gun when the blackmail threats continued. "He was telling them he would get them more money, please don’t send these images out … they didn’t care,” Guffey tells CNN. "I think in his mind it was just too much, and he didn’t know how he would overcome that." He says that in the weeks after Gavin's death, scammers taunted family members and continued to demand money. Guffey, 43, was elected to the South Carolina House months after his son's death. His first bill, "Gavin's Law," made sextortion a felony in the state, and an aggravated felony when the victim is a minor.
The bill passed the state House and Senate without opposition and was signed by Gov. Henry McMaster. "I personally will feel responsible for any child that I know that continues to get targeted like this, and I didn't do everything I could to raise the awareness—to let parents know to go and have that conversation with their kids, and let their kids know that you're not going to shame them," Guffey tells Fox. He says his advice to parents or children dealing with sextortion is to first get offline—scammers can see when a person is online and will step up their demands. The next step, he says, should be to call police. Authorities say at least a dozen suicides last year were linked to sextortion schemes. (Read more sextortion stories.)