The FBI’s Portland Field Office is warning parents, caregivers and teens of an increase in sextortion crimes across the country. The FBI is receiving an increasing number of reports of adults posing as young girls forcing teenagers through social media to produce sexually oriented images and videos and then extorting money from them.
Sextortion begins when an adult contacts a minor on an 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 man, usually between the ages of 14 and 17, to engage in an explicit activity via video. , which is then secretly recorded by the scammer. The scammer then reveals that he made the recordings and attempts to extort money from the victim, threatening the victim to pay or have the explicit photos or videos posted online.
Sextortion is a crime. The coercion of a child by an adult to produce what is considered child sexual abuse material (CSAM) carries severe penalties, up to life imprisonment for the offender. To stop the victimization, children need to tell someone, usually a parent, teacher, carer or law enforcement. Although it may be embarrassing for the child, coming forward to help law enforcement identify the abuser can prevent countless more incidents of sexual exploitation for that victim and others.
“It’s hard to imagine anyone doing this to children. Literally exploiting their innocence for money. The scammers gain their trust and then demand money to keep the explicit photos secret. This is a real example of how terrible and disgusting criminals can be Talk to your kids now, tell them if someone they met online is asking for videos or photos and then money, tell a parent or trusted adult and law enforcement to stop further victimization,” said Portland FBI Special Agent in Charge Kieran L. Ramsey.
The FBI provides the following advice 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 find a lot of information about you or your children.
- Beware of people you meet 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 say they are.
- Beware if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on another platform.
- Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
If you think you or someone you know is a victim of sextortion:
- Contact your local FBI field office (contact information is available at www.fbi.gov), the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov, or the National Center for Missing Children and operated (1-800-the-lost or Cybertipline.org).
- Don’t delete anything until law enforcement is able to review it.
- Tell law enforcement all about the encounters you have had online; it may be annoying, but you have to find the culprit.
In 2021, IC3 received over 18,000 sextortion-related complaints, with losses of over $13.6 million. This number reflects all reported types of sextortion, not just this particular pattern.
More information on sextortion can be found at: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/stopsextortion-youth-face-risk-online-090319