FBI Dallas Warns of Increase in Sextortion Schemes Targeting 14 to 17-Year-Old Teens
DALLAS—The FBI Dallas Field Office is warning parents and caregivers about a rise in nationwide incidents involving the sextortion of teenagers over the Internet. The FBI is receiving an increasing number of reports of adults on social media and online gaming systems, posing as adolescents, who coerce children to produce sexual images and videos, and then extort money from them.
In a scheme that has recently become more prevalent, the adult offender poses as a young female and makes initial contact through an online platform (e.g., social media accounts, games, or apps) and then asks to switch to a video platform. The predator convinces the young male, usually 14 to 17 years old, to engage in explicit activity over video. The predator secretly records the video, then reveals they have recorded the act and attempts to extort the victim for money to prevent the content from being posted online and/or sent to friends and family.
Sextortion is a crime. It is illegal for an adult to ask for, pay for or demand graphic images, also known as Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), from a minor. If convicted, offenders face penalties up to life in prison
In 2021, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 18,000 sextortion-related complaints, with loss totals topping $13.6 million. This number reflects all types of sextortion reported, not just this particular scheme.
To stop the victimization, children typically have to report it. The FBI believes cases may be underreported because of embarrassment, fear of the repercussions threatened by the criminal and/or the anticipated adverse response from their parents, guardians, or law enforcement. Sextortion offenders may have hundreds of victims around the world, and reporting the crime to law enforcement may prevent countless others from being victimized.
“These predators hide behind lies, manipulation, and anonymity to interact with our children. They could be disguised as a peer using a fake identity on a young person’s social media or gaming sites, or through the devices they use for gaming, homework, and communicating with friends,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Mathew J. DeSarno, “The FBI uses every tool possible to catch these dangerous individuals, but we need responsible adults to help us by reporting suspicious online behavior and to educate children and teens about safe online media usage.”
The FBI provides the following tips to protect children and teens 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 anything or 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 and teens to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:
- Contact your local FBI field office, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-the-lost or Cybertipline.org).
- Don’t delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
- Tell law enforcement everything about the encounters you had online; it may be uncomfortable, but it is necessary to find the offender.
More information and multimedia resources about sextortion can be found at: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/stop-sextortion-youth-face-risk-online-090319 and https://www.fbi.gov/sextortion
The FBI’s partner at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has step-by-step instructions on how to remove explicit content from more than a dozen online platforms: https://www.missingkids.org/gethelpnow/isyourexplicitcontentoutthere?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=National+Child+Abuse+Prevention+Month&utm_term=&utm_content=