FBI issues alert about sextortion targeting teenage boys

“Pinwheels for Prevention” are a national symbol, obtained by Greater Richmond SCAN, aimed at...
“Pinwheels for Prevention” are a national symbol, obtained by Greater Richmond SCAN, aimed at raising awareness of child abuse prevention efforts(FBI Richmond)
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 11:22 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ/FBI Release) - The FBI is alerting parents, guardians, educators and teens of an increase in sextortion crimes, locally and nationwide, specifically targeting teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 17.

The FBI is issuing the alert during National Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The FBI describes sextortion as “the coercion of a child by an adult to produce Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM),” saying it can result in a life sentence for the offending adult.

The scheme, according to the FBI, begins with a predator posing as a young girl on social media, and through deception and manipulation, convinces a boy to engage in explicit sexual activity over video. This video is secretly recorded and saved by the predator, who later tells the boy it exists and uses it to extort money, bank account information or gift cards from the victim by threatening to release it on various social media pages.

The FBI says, “While the thought of coming forward to report these crimes to a trusted adult or the authorities may initially seem overwhelming and embarrassing, we assure victims and their families that our goals are to end their victimization, prevent others from being victimized, and hold these predators accountable.”

The FBI’s investigative team includes victim specialists trained to help victims and their families understand and navigate the criminal justice system and coordinate appropriate services and resources, according to the FBI.

The following FBI tips may help protect parents and children online:

• Consider restricting social media accounts. If social media accounts are open, predators may be able to connect snippets of personal information to eventually obtain significant material for their use.

• Be sensitive to the information you share online, especially personal information and passwords.

• Remember anyone, predators included, can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Be cautious of those you encounter initially. Videos and photos should never be considered proof of identity. Block or ignore messages from strangers. Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and you’re asked to switch to a different platform.

• Encourage all children to report suspicious or uncomfortable behavior to a trusted adult.

Tips from the FBI in case you or someone you know has been a victim of sextortion:

• Do not forward the material to anyone else, including parents and guardians. Forwarding this CSAM could compound the issue.

• Do not delete anything before law enforcement has had an opportunity to forensically review it.

• When speaking with law enforcement about these online encounters, be honest and open. Investigators are trained and compassionate individuals, and the information you provide assists us in locating these predators.

• Make a report: Contact FBI Richmond at (804) 261-1044, or contact a local FBI office. Contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-the-lost / Cyber Tip Line)

“Pinwheels for Prevention” (pictured above) are scattered throughout the Richmond area. The FBI says they are a national symbol, obtained by Greater Richmond SCAN, aimed at raising awareness of child abuse prevention efforts. Affixed to these pinwheels are codes that link to various pages from the FBI’s webpage, linking to information designed to raise awareness of the FBI’s effort to address Sextortion.

For schools, Parent/Teacher Organizations or any other entity that would like a presentation on this material to help raise awareness and prevent future victimization of youth, send your request to a Community Outreach Specialist.

For additional information and resources: fbi.gov/news/stories/stop-sextortionyouth-face-risk-online-090319.

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