Parents issue heartbreaking warning after teen son takes own life following catfishing scam

Picture: Facebook
Picture: Facebook 

*TRIGGER WARNING: This article discusses suicide.*

A teenager has died by suicide after he was caught up in a catfishing scam and blackmailed on Facebook. 

Riley Basford, 15, from New York took his own life on March 30 after he reportedly sent photos to someone he believed to be a teenage girl, who had befriended him online.

Once they had the photos, the scammers threatened to send them to his family and friends on Facebook unless he paid them AUD $4,500.

His mum, Mary Rodee, said the family were struggling to comprehend the news, saying her son was 'full of so much love and support'. 

Ms Rodee said Riley 'couldn't process the finality of the decision that he was making', in an interview with WWNY-TV

​While the teenager had seemed his usual happy self that day, his dad Darren Basford, who he had been staying with at the time, told the Watertown Daily Times the family later learned scammers had been sending him threatening messages throughout the day.

"They continued to bombard him and bombard him", Mr Basford said.

His family only learned of the scam when New York State police looked through the teen's phone. The police have since issued a warning on scammers targeting teenagers.

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"The New York State Police want to warn New Yorkers, especially parents, following cases of teens being targeted by criminals while online," they warned in a statement.

"Investigators say the suspect(s) locate teen victims on social media, friending or following the teens, then gaining their trust. When trust is established, investigators say the suspects ask for photos and/or videos of the teen, usually provocative in nature."

Picture: Riley's family said he loved the outdoors and wanted to work in environmental protection

Picture: Riley's family said he loved the outdoors and wanted to work in environmental protection

"Once the videos are secured by these predators, they demand payment, sometimes thousands of dollars, or they threaten to release the images on social media. At least one case has resulted in a teen victim taking their own life."

It prompted Riley's family to go public with their ordeal, urging parents to be alert to any potential threats their teens may be receiving. 

In a Facebook post, Mr Basford opened up about his determination to warn other parents

I am going through one of the worse thing a parent can go through. I have cried and asked myself why?? I just could not...

Posted by Darren Basford on  Saturday, 3 April 2021

"My sweet sweet Riley who I have always known as the happiest kid, had a light up the room smile, fell prey to these awful people. He friended an attractive girl who he thought was a real person and started a relationship with her," he wrote. 

"At 15 he was easily manipulated by these people and they send photos and asked for him to send them back, of coarse they escalated to very personal pictures and then they had him.."

"Sick individuals out there use all kinds of social media outlets to do sick, evil things. To all the parents out there warn, teach, talk to your kids about who they are friending on social media and if they really know them."

​The family have since set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for his memorial, saying they plan to use any funds left over to establish a scholarship in Riley's name.

Describing him as having an 'infectious smile', he had recently started his first job and loved the outdoors and hoped to become an environmental conservation officer. 

"Riley will be missed by all that knew him. He touched so many lives in his very short 15 years with us on earth. May he always be with us in our hearts," his family wrote on the page. ​

If you or someone you know is struggling, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 000.