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February 27, 2024 5:59 pm

Local News

FBI warns about increase in sextortion crimes targeting minors

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Shanteya Hudson, Public News Service

The FBI is warning the public about an increase in the crime known as “sextortion,” when suspects target others and threaten or coerce them into sending sexually explicit videos and images online.

Offenders then threaten to release the content unless the victim produces more. Financially motivated sextortion follows a similar pattern, but ultimately offenders are looking for financial gain.

Curtis Cox, special agent for the FBI, said they receive dozens of calls a month.

“These cases typically involve young male victims between the age of 13 to 17, and we see some younger than that, actually,” Cox pointed out. “We’re really just trying to get the word out. Obviously, awareness is key here. We want kids to know what sorts of dangers they face online. We want them to know what resources are available to them.”

Cox said in the six months from October 2022 to March 2023, the FBI saw a 20% increase in the reporting of financially motivated sextortion cases. If you or someone you know believes they’re a victim of this kind of crime, contact law enforcement immediately. You can report it to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI, contacting the nearest FBI field office, or online at tips.fbi.gov.

The FBI Atlanta office said they received 196 reports of sextortion in 2023, a 700% increase from 2021.

Cox explained as young people live their lives online, some fall victim to the scams, typically on Instagram or Snapchat.

The scammers, who pretend to be teenage girls, approach young men. The scammer will send a sexually explicit photo and solicit one in return, which is then used to demand money from the victim.

“With threats that if the money’s not paid, they’re going to send those pictures to social media contacts; their friends, their family, to others in the kid’s orbit,” Cox noted. “Obviously, that fear of being exposed that way causes these kids to panic.”

Cox added trying to make payments does not solve the problem. It can exacerbate it, with the resulting anxiety leading people who have been scammed to self-harm or thoughts of suicide. He pointed out there are resources to help and he urged parents to not judge or be angry at their teen, but to view them as a victim who needs help and support.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.