(KTNV) — The FBI said they are receiving an increase in numbers of adults posing as young girls on social media to talk to young boys and use them for sexual images and videos, then selling those videos and extorting money from them. The FBI Las Vegas Field Office is warning parents and caregivers of this sextortion activity on young children, and that sextortion is a crime.
According to a press release from fbi.gov, 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. The predator, posing as a young girl, deceives and manipulates a young male, having them send explicit activity over video or pictures. The predator then keeps the content and then reveals that they have made the recordings and attempts to extort the victim for money to prevent them from being posted online.
“The most effective way to disrupt these criminals is through awareness, education, and having important discussions with your children about their online safety,” said acting special agent in charge W. Mike Herrington. “Frightening young victims through social media and using the anonymity of the Internet to hide will never be tolerated by the FBI. Parents, please talk to your children about the dangers of the Internet and social media and make it clear to them that they are not to blame if they fall victim to a predator. The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners are dedicated to ensuring children are protected from online predators.”
Sextortion is a crime. 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.
To make the victimization stop, children typically must come forward to someone, normally a parent, teacher, caregiver, or law enforcement. The embarrassment children feel from the activity they were forced to engage in is what typically what prevents them from coming forward. Sextortion offenders may have hundreds of victims around the world, so coming forward to help law enforcement identify the offender may prevent countless other incidents of sexual exploitation to that victim and others.
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.
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.
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 at here.