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Sean D. Reyes
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Far More Than Just an App

November 8, 2019

The following article was originally published in the Fall 2019 Silicon Slopes Magazine.

SafeUT is far more than an app; it is a mental health support system that acts to provide professional help for youth in crisis. The app is a free statewide service providing real-time crisis intervention to Utah’s students, parents, and educators.


Crisis help can be provided through texting, which factors into SafeUT’s success with youth more comfortable texting than talking on a phone. Use is 100% confidential, and crisis line counselors do not inquire about identifying information except in emergency situations. SafeUT has been recognized nationwide for its effectiveness in saving lives and de-escalating potential school incidents.

SafeUT allows students to open a two-way messaging service with licensed clinicians, call a crisis counselor directly, or submit confidential tips to school administrators on bullying, threats, violence, etc. The app is staffed by trained crisis counselors at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The program was developed with funding from the Utah State Legislature in collaboration with the Utah Attorney General’s Office, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) and U of U Health, the Utah State Board of Education, and the Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition.


Enrolled schools are listed within the SafeUT app and school administrators are trained to handle submitted tips received through the app. At the end of the 2018-2019 academic school year, 81.73% of all Utah K-12 schools and Universities (including public, private, and charter) have been enrolled in SafeUT. All tips submitted through the app are immediately reviewed by UNI staff. Non-urgent tips are sent daily to the appropriate school administrators, and tips of a more threatening nature (including violence or planned school attacks) are triaged by crisis counselors who may involve law enforcement and administrators to quickly resolve the crisis. During the 2018-2019 academic school year, the SafeUT app received tips about 245 unique potential school threats, which includes reports of explosives, guns, knives, and planned school attacks.

“Since adopting SafeUT in our school, we have not had a student take their own life in over 3 years, I credit SafeUT with that amazing statistic.” – Brian McGill, Principal at Alta High School


In 2018, SafeUT expanded to Utah higher education institutions and Utah technical colleges. In 2019, there are plans to expand services to the Utah National Guard and the The SafeUT Commission is currently working with several states to implement similar programs.

University of Utah Health Plans is a proud partner and advocate for the SafeUT program. SafeUT is a phenomenal example of how mental health care is all about meeting those in crisis right where they are.

“Removing the stigma surrounding mental health care by providing better access to mental health professionals and resources is a main priority for us now and in the future. As part of this initiative, we will be the new behavioral health plan provider for Summit County, UT with plans to expand into other counties in 2020.” – Russell Vinik MD, Chief Medical Officer, U of U Health Plans


“A young LGBTQ+ student came to our booth and whispered to me, ‘Do you actually work with SafeUT or are you a volunteer?’ I responded that I do work here and he continued to tear up and tell me, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, a hundred thank you’s” and proceeded to hug me and continue to thank me. He said he used the app when he was at his lowest and thanks to our advice and resources he has been able to get help and support.” – A SafeUT Worker

Read the article in the 2019 issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine here.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October 29, 2019

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the Utah Attorney General’s Office is urging Utahns to stay safe online by using this year’s theme: Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.

With the internet integrated into almost every facet of our lives, from apps, smartwatches, smart home hubs and controllers, computers, and smartphones, it’s imperative to practice cybersecurity, no matter where you are or what you are doing.

Own IT

Update Privacy Settings

Your personal information is valuable, and you can control who and where you are sharing it. Make sure your update your privacy settings to your comfort level including geotagging, which allows anyone to see where you are at any given time.  

Be Careful What You Click & Share

Seemingly random information, such as places you frequent, where you work, and where you live, can be everything a criminal needs to know in order to target you and your belongings – both in the real world and online. Always keep your Social Security number, birthday, address, full name, and passwords private.

Keep Tabs on Your Apps

Always get rid of apps you no longer use and review what permissions your apps have. Make sure you only download apps from trusted sources and enable automatic app updates so you can stay protected from cyber threats.

Secure IT

Double Your Login Protection with Secure Passwords

Having a strong password is imperative to keeping you and your information protected online. Be creative. Use a long password and don’t make passwords that would be easy to guess. Use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols. Lastly, enable multi-factor authentication. Learn more about this security process here.

How to Spot and Avoid Phishing

Scammers use email or text to trick you into giving up your personal information. These emails may appear as if they are coming from a legitimate company, website, or app. The email and text messages may tell you they’ve noticed suspicious activity on your account, claim there’s a problem with your billing information, include a fake invoice, or want you to click on a link to make a payment. Always double check the information by looking up the business entity and their information online.

Protect IT

Secure Your Wi-Fi Network

Before you make that purchase or send sensitive information, make sure you are connected to a secure network. Public, unsecured networks provide little security and allows people access to your files and information. Either use a virtual private network (VPN) or use your phone as a hotspot.

Stay Protected While Connected

Keep your software updated to the latest version available. Maintaining your security settings will keep your information secure and safe. You can enable automatic updates to run and enable your security software to run regular scans.

For more tips to protect your personal information, go here.

North Logan man charged with raping a child after luring her to his apartment using Snapchat

July 12, 2019

Yesterday, a North Logan man was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl after he lured her into his apartment by pretending to be one of her friends on Snapchat.

While the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force isn’t directly associated with this specific case, Regional Supervisor Alan Connor emphasized that these incidents happen far too often. Additionally, he urges parents to be aware of their children’s interactions on the internet and for children and teens to practice internet safety.

“When we’re talking about kids, they’re easily manipulated. They want to be liked, they want to be popular. The confirmation of those feelings and those emotions are what predators jump on,” Connor said. “As the parents, we need to be informed. We need to go out there and look and see what our kids are doing. If we don’t understand it we have to educate ourselves.”

Report child pornography by contacting the ICAC Tip Line at 801.281.1211 or your local law enforcement agency.

Media coverage:

ABC4: North Logan man uses Snapchat to lure teen to apartment and rape her, documents state

Deseret News: Northern Utah man uses Snapchat to lure teen to his apartment, rape her, charges state

Fox13: Cache County man deceived teen girl on Snapchat before raping her, police say

Salt Lake Tribune: Logan man charged with luring a 13-year-old to his apartment and raping her

KUTV: Police: North Logan man raped minor, lured her by posing as girl on Snapchat

Sextortion: A Serious & Devastating Crime

July 2, 2019

Gabe Ryan Gilbert

A warrant was issued yesterday for the arrest of 19-year-old Gabe Ryan Gilbert for sextortion and/or coercion of another person. The charges are comprised of five counts of aggravated sexual extortion of a child, a first-degree felony, and four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony, after he allegedly contacted and threated juvenile girls on social media for nude photos.

The Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force started the investigation in August after receiving a report from Snapchat that a user had been sexual extorting minors online.

“When I examined the results of the search warrant from Snapchat it was obvious the user had been engaging in very similar behavior with other underage girls. I identified well over fifty (50) potential victims of this type of sexual extortion,” said an investigator in the charging documents.

Sextortion is a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private, sensitive material if you don’t provide sexual images, favors, or money. Generally, the perpetrator may threaten you or your loved ones unless you comply with their demands. Sextortion has serious and devastating effects on young victims and unfortunately isn’t uncommon with our technological world and various social media platforms where predators and perpetrators lurk.  

Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim to sextortion and what to do if you become one:

  • Never send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are or who they say they are. These images could easily be shared or stolen, even by people you may trust.
  • Turn off your electronic devices and web cameras when you are not using them.
  • Keep our internet safety tips in mind.
  • If you receive sextortion threats, contact law enforcement or tell an adult. You are not alone, and you are not to blame.

The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) is a multi-jurisdictional task force that investigates and prosecutes individuals who use the Internet to exploit children.

ICAC Tip Line: 801.281.1211

ICAC Email:

Media Coverage:

Fox 13: Police: Utah man charged with sexual extortion threatened to expose teen girls, send ‘rapists’ to their homes

KUTV: Utah teen accused of sexual extortion of more than 50 girls, court documents state

KSL: Utahn accused in ‘sextortion’ of over 50 teens, charges say

Deseret News: Utahn accused in ‘sextortion’ of over 50 teens, charges say

Keep Safety in Mind When Accessing the Internet

June 20, 2019

June is National Internet Safety Month and the Utah Attorney General’s Office is urging the importance of digital security and privacy.

Whether it’s on a phone, computer, or gaming platforms, the internet can be accessed through apps, browsers, and games. The increase in the prevalence of smartphones has additionally created a rise in internet usage. According to Pew Research’s 2018 Teens, Social Media & Technology report, 45% of teens say they use the internet “almost constantly” while 44% say they go on several times a day. No matter what platform you use to access the internet, it’s important to practice digital safety.

Share with care

The internet has no delete button. Anything that you put on the internet will stay forever, even if you delete the original post. Before you post, think about who might see the picture or words, whether it be your parents or your future employer.

Make sure your internet connection is secure

Before you make that purchase or sending that sensitive information, make sure you are on a secure network. If you are in public and using an unsecured network, you have no controls over the security settings and who can monitor or access your files. Either use a virtual private network (VPN) or use your phone as a hotspot.

Keep your security software updated

Constantly having to update your software and security can be a pain, especially if it requires a restart. However, keeping your security software updated will an added layer of protection for your information and can detect and remove most malware.

Secure your accounts

Make sure you use a password or security feature to lock your phone, tablet, computer, etc. Use long and strong passwords with both capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols to create a more secure password. These passwords are more difficult for cybercriminals to hack. Use a unique password rather than using the same one over and over.

Keep your privacy settings on

It might surprise you how much marketers and hackers can learn a lot about you from your browsing and social media usage. Keep privacy setting on for your social media accounts and other online accounts to keep your personal information private.

Be careful what you download

Whether it is a link in an email or pdf, cybercriminals can trick you into downloading malware to try and steal your information. This malware could even be disguised as an app. Don’t download or click on links that may looks suspicious or come from a site you don’t know and trust.

Be careful who you meet online

People are not always who they claim to be, despite what their profile picture might suggest otherwise. In fact, they might not even be real. Hackers can create fake social media profiles to gain your trust and eventually steal your information. Be cautious and sensible in all your online interactions.

Consider parental controls

There are a number of parental control options available to help you keep your kids safe when using a smartphone, tablet, or anything that can connect to the internet. From tools that filter or block certain content to software that prevents kids from sharing personal information via chat or email, you have the ability to help your children stay safe online even when you are not there. It is also important to have internet safety discussions with your children where you can go over these tips and help them make good digital habits to keep them safe.

Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century

June 11, 2019

You might be surprised at just how much tech companies know about you these days, and how easily companies cooperate to link your personal information (address, phone number, email, social media) to your shopping habits, financial information, political affiliation, recreational and workout habits—even the route you take to and from work.

Relatively few companies have the power to profit from this information efficiently, and there is growing concern that big market power can result in collusive, exclusionary or predatory conduct or conduct that might even violate consumer protection laws.

That’s why the Utah Attorney General’s office is part of a nationwide effort to investigate the ways that explosive expansion of technology is affecting consumer privacy, competition in technology platform markets, mergers and acquisitions, sales of data, and more.  Follow this link to the agenda and hearings “Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.”

On Wednesday June 10, 2019, Deputy Attorney General David Sonnenreich (Antitrust Section) will participate in a hearing that will bring 43 other Attorneys General together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate what action should be taken to address these concerns.

Sonnenreich is scheduled to testify at 10:25 am.

Follow this link to the hearing while it is happening.


This letter from 43 Attorneys General Details topics and concerns regarding Competition and Consumer protection in the 21st Century.  (put in NAAG link)

Roundtable agenda and streaming link

Here is a link to the FTC’s main page for its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century:

Utah AG Announces 13 Arrests of ICAC Operation

May 20, 2019

Over 45 Charges Issued to Offenders Arrested in Utah County

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced the arrest of thirteen individuals in Utah County following a recent operation targeting child sexual predators. Charges include Enticing a Minor, Attempted Rape of a Child, Attempted Sodomy of a Child, Attempted Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child, Attempted Forcible Sexual Abuse, Criminal Solicitation, and more, for a total of 48 charges.

“The bad news is the information we are sharing today is grim in nature and shows that there are adults in our communities who appear to be actively and aggressively trying to have sexual contact with Utah children,” said Attorney General Reyes. “My office works with children who are actual victims of sexual abuse and rape; we see these children and the trauma they suffer. That’s why we perform these operations, and why we’re so committed to preventing harm where we can and prosecuting every possible crime against children that we can. Our goal is to prevent this kind of trauma from happening to even one more child.”

The investigation, led by the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, indicated the suspects primarily targeted boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 13 years old. These suspects, if convicted, would be considered among the most dangerous and aggressive child predators because their activity indicates a plan to engage in sexual contact with a minor.

Based on the number of cases law enforcement agencies have handled across the state, evidence shows that this problem has become more pervasive in the last year.

Attorney General Reyes addressed that troubling trend today during a press conference alongside ICAC officers from the Provo Police Department, Orem Police Department, Utah County Sheriff’s office, Uintah County Sheriff’s office, Dixie State University Police, Davis County Attorney’s office, and Adult Probation and Parole who all participated in the operation. 

Keeping Children Safe

The Utah Attorney General’s ICAC Education Specialist has the following tips:

As community members, our role is to help protect children. If you know of anyone who is contacting children, please call your local law enforcement or the ICAC Tip Line at 801-281-1211.

# # #


  1. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
  2. The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) is a multi-jurisdictional task force that investigates and prosecutes individuals who use the Internet to exploit children.
  3. You can find a list of the alleged offenders and charges here:
  4. You can find the booking photos here:

Sexting, Sextortion & the Dark Side of Social Media

The following is an excerpt taken from Pat Reavy’s recent article in the Deseret News on April 1: Uncovering secret that led to son’s suicide. Michelle Upwall is an Education Specialist with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and a member of the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

There is little that shocks Michelle Upwall anymore after being with the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for so many years.

But when she was called by a woman concerned about her daughter’s online activities — and then found a 9-year-old girl crying in a closet because she had been talking to five adult men and sending pornographic pictures of herself — even Upwall was startled.

In 2017, the Deseret News talked to police and school officials about the dangers of sexting, something that has become so commonplace in Utah’s schools that some students will argue it’s just part of what their generation does. It’s harmless fun, many argue.

“I don’t think they think it’s a big deal. Or they think, ‘It’s just going to this person I’m sending it to.’ But it never does. And if parents don’t think it’s big deal, that’s the tough part. And unfortunately, a lot of the time parents don’t even know what’s going on until it becomes huge,” Upwall said.

“Parents will say, ‘Well, we did things when we were kids. This is what they’re doing now — sexting.’ I’m like, ‘What? No. So you’re OK with them sending explicit images and videos of themselves?’ They’re justifying it. Parents just don’t think it’s a big deal and that’s why it’s such a huge problem, not just the predator thing but sexting itself just between kids.”

Today, there is no shortage of cases currently being investigated by law enforcement officers in Utah involving teens and even pre-teens involved in sexual activity online, as well as predators preying on these children.

In the case of the 9-year-old girl, the initial contact started while she was in an online gaming chatroom.

“Online gaming chat rooms are a huge, huge, huge place for predators,” Upwall said.

From there, someone — presumably an adult man — groomed her to move their conversation to Kik — an app that Upwall believes can be particularly dangerous.

“Kik is very dangerous because first of all it’s an anonymous app and it’s really easy to connect with strangers,” she said, explaining that it doesn’t have as effective safeguards and age verifications as some other apps. “So it’s easy for kids to talk to strangers of all ages in public groups. … We get a lot of cybertips related to Kik because there are many, many predators using this app to target kids.”

There are few hard statistics kept on the frequency of sextortion. But based on the caseload of investigators with the Internet Crimes Against Children task force and even local law enforcers, Upwall believes the incidents are on the rise. And the age of children being lured into explicit behavior on social media apps is getting younger.

A sampling of other recent investigations collected in court documents by the Deseret News over the past four months include:

  • In Sandy, police began investigating a disturbing case in December involving the HOLLA app. Three girls — ages 12, 12 and 13, who all attend the same middle school — “were sending nude photos and videos to guys they believed to be in their 20s or 30s.” The girls admitted to sending nude videos of themselves to multiple men on several occasions.
  • In Logan, police say an adult man offered a 14-year-old girl money in exchange for nude photographs. “She sent the male several pornographic images and videos of herself via Instagram and text message,” police wrote. But when the girl later cut off communication with the man, he became mad and demanded that she pay him approximately $2,000 or he would upload the pornographic images that she sent him to the Internet and send them to her friends.
  • In a separate case in Logan in December, police were investigating reports of a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old exchanging photos on Snapchat and images livestreamed on Facebook.
  • In December, police in West Valley City were called to investigate a juvenile girl who was using the app Discord to send nude pictures and videos to an adult male.
  • In another Sandy case, police investigated an incident in which several members of a high school girls sports team posed topless in a hot tub for a picture that was distributed to their group via Snapchat. Several months later, one of the girls was informed that a boy at another school had received a copy of it. Police were attempting to discover how the photo was “leaked,” and were looking at whether an ex-boyfriend of one of the girls accessed her phone and sent the photo to himself.
  • In December, an 18-year-old Utah State University student reported to police that she was contacted by an unknown person who acquired racy pictures of her when she was 16 and 17. “I have many more pics and vids like these from hacking your phone,” the unknown person told the student. “If you want me to delete them, you’re gonna have to do something for me. … If you try to ignore these or delete your account, block me, or tell anyone about this, I’ll send them around to your family, friends and around campus. When the woman tried blocking the person on Instagram, she received another message stating, “If you try (to) block me again … I have all your family and friends’ social media. I’m not … playing with you. If I don’t get a reply, I’m sending these.”

Upwall said when young girls send explicit photos, “they’re looking for attention from older males. They think that’s cool.”

Some girls seeking attention have image issues and are self-conscious about themselves, she said. Other girls are pressured by their boyfriends, or older men who gain their trust, into sending explicit photos and videos.

The ages of the girls sending these photos keeps getting younger, she said. Part of that is because many elementary school-aged children now have smartphones.

“The problem is parents aren’t talking to their kids. And parents, a lot of times, don’t know how these apps or these phones work,” Upwall said. “Snapchat is a big one that we still continue to see as a problem because kids think it (a message or a photo) goes away. We know it doesn’t.

“They just hand them these phones and they go off into the world. And they’re learning from their peers or they’re learning from predators. Because predators are more than willing to answer these questions and pay attention to them.”

Another problem is youths who don’t make their accounts “private,” making their posts available for anyone to see.

“Most kids, and this is the scary thing, most kids keep their accounts open, public, because they value their popularity status on how many likes, how many followers, how many friends. And that’s the scary thing,” Upwall said.

In fact, Upwall will randomly check the Instagram accounts of juveniles at the beginning of each school quarter to see how many publicly post their schedules. And about 95 percent do, she said.

“That gives predators so much information.”

There are apps nowadays that are created by predators for predators, she added. Sometimes there can be as many as 10 new apps a day that pop up.

The most dangerous apps are the ones that have real-time and livestreaming capability, she said. Those videos are nearly impossible for investigators to recover.

“Those are ones we don’t ever want to see kids go to, because they will be told to do different things, explicit things, and you don’t know who’s on the other end,” she said. “You can have anybody on the other end telling these kids what to do.”

One tool for parents is Common Sense Media, which can help them become educated about different apps and how dangerous they are. But because there are so many, Upwall said the best thing parents can do is communicate and educate.

Sexting is huge in Utah, Upwall said, and is often underreported. To many teenagers, they don’t see a problem with it.

“They just think in the moment right now. They don’t think about the future,” she said.


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