FBI Draws Awareness to the Dangers of Sextortion
The Charlotte Division of the FBI is working to raise awareness about the dangers of sextortion, a type of online sexual exploitation. Nationally and in North Carolina, the FBI has seen a significant increase in sextortion activity against children who use the Internet, typically ages 10-17, but any age child can become a victim. The FBI has identified an alarming number of children are communicating with individuals online who seek to sexually exploit them. With school dismissed for the summer, children will have extra time to access their electronic devices. With an Internet connection or a smartphone, even the youngest children are susceptible to this type of criminal exploitation.
Sextortion victims are coerced into providing sexually explicit images or videos of themselves, their siblings, or friends. In many cases, the victims share inappropriate photos without knowing the recipient’s “true identity.” The offenders may pretend to be a child of a similar age as the victim and then threaten to post the images publicly or send images to the victims’ friends and family. Offenders often approach a child on one social networking site and convince them to move to anonymous messaging apps or video chats.
The following tips may help prevent children from becoming victims of this type of sexual exploitation:
- Make children aware that anything done online may be available to others
- Make sure children’s apps and social networking sites’ privacy settings are set to the strictest level possible
- Parents should review and approve apps downloaded to smart phones and mobile devices and monitor activity on those devices
- Regularly go through “friends” and “followers” list and delete anyone your child has not met in person
- Anyone who asks a child to engage in sexually explicit activity online should be reported to a parent, guardian, or law enforcement immediately
The Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children recently released a public service announcement (PSA) depicting how a teen was blackmailed into sending explicit images and video to someone online she thought she knew. Different versions of the PSA can be downloaded at the following link, http://www.missingkids.org/sextortionpsa. For more information about sextortion, to include an educational brochure, visit www.fbi.gov/sextortion.
- Press release: Sextortion Affecting Thousands of U.S. Children