FBI warns of increasing number of sextortion schemes involving underage boys
The FBI is warning parents and caregivers about an increasing number of reports of adults posing as young girls coercing young boys through social media to produce sexual images and videos and then extorting money from them.
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Sextortion begins when an adult contacts a minor over any online platform used to meet and communicate, such as a game, app or social media account.
In a scheme that has recently become more prevalent, the predator, posing as a young girl, uses deception and manipulation to convince a young male, usually 14 to 17 years old, to engage in explicit activity over video, which is then secretly recorded by the predator. The predator then reveals that they have made the recordings and attempts to extort the victim for money to prevent them from being posted online, according to the FBI.
The coercion of a child by an adult to produce what is considered Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) carries heavy penalties, which can include up to life sentences for the offender.
"The most effective way to disrupt these criminals is through awareness, education, and having important discussions with your children about their online safety," says Wayne Jacobs, special agent in charge of WFO’s Criminal/Cyber Division. "We recognize victims may feel embarrassed and thus hesitant to come forward and report these incidents, but we are strongly encouraging victims to notify us so that these individuals are held to account for their actions and, most importantly, prevented from harming another child."
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The FBI provides the following tips to protect you and your children online:
- Be selective about what you share online, especially your personal information and passwords. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you or your children.
- Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
- Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
- Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
- Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
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If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:
- Contact your local FBI field office (contact information can be found at www.fbi.gov), the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-the-lost or Cybertipline.org).
- Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
- Tell law enforcement everything about the encounters you had online; it may be embarrassing, but it is necessary to find the offender.
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In 2021, the IC3 received over 18,000 sextortion-related complaints, with losses over $13.6 million. This number reflects all types of sextortion reported, not just this particular scheme.
More information about sextortion can be found here.