DETROIT, Mich. — The FBI is warning parents about an increase in sextortion schemes targeting young boys.
According to the FBI, its Detroit Filed Office has been receiving reports of adults posing as young girls and coercing young boys through social media to produce sexual images and videos. After the images or videos are sent, the FBI says the victim is then threatened with exposure unless they pay the perpetrator.
Here’s how the FBI says it works, “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 is becoming more prevalent, the predator (posing as a young girl) uses deception and manipulation to convince a young male, usually 13 to 17 years old, to engage in explicit activity over video, which is then secretly recorded by the predator. The predator then reveals they made recordings and attempts to extort the victim for money to prevent them from being posted online.”
The FBI says sextortion schemes typically target young boys, but adult men have been victimized too.
The FBI wants to remind people that sextortion is a crime, which carries heavy penalties such as a life sentence.
In order to make the victimization stop, children have to come forward and tell an adult. According to the FBI, the embarrassment children feel from the activity they were forced to engage in is most often what keeps them from coming forward.
“The most effective way to stop these criminals is by preventing young people from becoming victims. We can do that through awareness, education, and having important — and sometimes difficult — conversations with the young people in our lives,” said Special Agent James A. Tarasca of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “We recognize victims may be hesitant to come forward and report these incidents. If you are a victim and don’t feel comfortable reporting directly to law enforcement, we encourage you to reach out to a trusted adult, who can help you. Your brave decision to come forward can not only help us identify the criminal but could also prevent another young person from being victimized.”
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 18,00 total sextortion-related complaints in 2021 with losses of over $13.6 million.
Here are some tips from the FBI to protect you and your children online:
1. 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.
2. Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
3. Be aware people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
4. Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
5. Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
If you believe you or someone you know is a victim of sextortion:
1. Call the FBI’s Detroit Field Office at 313-965-2323 or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. You can also file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-THELOST or cybertipline.org).
2. Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
3. Tell law enforcement everything about the encounters you had online; it may be embarrassing, but it is necessary to find the offender
For more information about sextortion schemes, click here.