FBI Charlotte
Public Affairs Specialist Shelley Lynch
May 31, 2022

FBI Charlotte Warns of Increase in Sextortion Schemes Targeting Teenage Boys

The FBI Charlotte Field Office is warning parents, caregivers, and teens about an increase in sextortion crimes across the country. The FBI is receiving an increasing number of reports of adults posing as young girls coercing teenage boys through social media to produce sexual images and videos, then extorting money from the minor victims. FBI Charlotte has received 29 reports of sextortion so far in 2022; in 23 of those reports, the criminals demanded money from the mostly male victims.

Sextortion begins when an adult contacts a minor over an online platform used to meet and communicate, such as a game, app, or social media account. In a scheme that has recently become more prevalent, 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.

FBI #StopSextortion awareness graphic with stock image of boy on stairs looking at phone with the following text: The Internet connects your kids to the world ... do you know who in the world is connecting to them? #StopSextortion

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 for the offender. To make the victimization stop, children should tell someone, typically 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.

“The FBI will not tolerate online predators targeting our children. We will continue to work with our state and local partners to protect our children from sextortion crimes and hold these criminals accountable. This also highlights the importance of parents regularly engaging with their children regarding social media activity. Children must understand they cannot trust someone online who they’ve never met in person,” said FBI Charlotte Special Agent in Charge Robert R. Wells.

The FBI provides the following tips 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 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.
  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 children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.

If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:

  1. Contact local law enforcement or the FBI at tips.fbi.gov or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov.
  2. Do not delete anything on your device 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 and can protect other children.

In 2021, IC3 received more than 18,000 sextortion-related complaints, with losses of more than $13.6 million. More information about sextortion can be found at www.fbi.gov/StopSextortion.