FBI Charlotte Warns Sextortion Attempts Likely to Increase During Holiday Break
The FBI Charlotte Field Office is warning parents, caregivers, and teens that sextortion crimes typically increase during school and holiday breaks. Sextortion is when adults pose as teens and manipulate or entice victims to produce and share sexually explicit images, then extort victims for additional photos or money.
Across the country sextortion cases are skyrocketing, especially financial sextortion targeting teenage boys. Between 2022 and 2023, FBI Charlotte saw a 20% increase in reports of sextortion. In reality, the number of victims is like much higher; some victims may be hesitant to report the crime.
In financial sextortion cases, the predator (posing as a young girl) uses deception and manipulation to convince a young male, usually 14 to 17 years old, to engage in explicit activity over video, which is then secretly recorded by the scammer. The scammer then reveals that they have made the recordings and attempts to extort the victim for money, threatening the victim to pay or have the explicit photos or videos posted online.
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 a life sentence in federal prison.
To make the victimization stop, children should tell a trusted adult, a parent, teacher, caregiver, or law enforcement. While it can be embarrassing for the child, coming forward to help law enforcement identify the offender may prevent countless other incidents of sexual exploitation to that victim and others.
"Sometimes we have seen kids stooping into depression, isolating themselves, and committing self-harm, and that is the last thing we want to have happen. Parents need to be intentional with their children when they give them a device. They need to know what that device is, they need to know what applications are on that device, and they need to know who their children are communicating with and explain to them about the dangers," said Robert M. DeWitt, the special agent in charge of the FBI in North Carolina. "Perpetrators understand how to manipulate and communicate with our kids. Again—it’s their full-time job."
The FBI provides the following tips to protect 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 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 children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:
- Contact local law enforcement or the FBI at tips.fbi.gov or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov.
- Do not delete anything on your device 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 and can protect other children.
More information about sextortion can be found at fbi.gov/sextortion