April 13, 2022

FBI’s Newark Office Warns Parents of an Increase in Sextortion Cases

NEWARK, NJ—The FBI Newark Field Office is seeing an increase in reports of sextortion involving teenaged boys and wants parents and guardians to be on alert. Sextortion is an online crime that typically begins with contact through social media or another online platform, such as a gaming site. The adult predator or scammer convinces the child to share sexual images or videos and then threatens to post the content unless the victim sends more content or money. The most recent increase in cases mainly targets teenage boys, between 14 and 17 years old, where the scammer exploits the situation for financial gain.

Sextortion is a crime. 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 life sentences for the offender. To make the victimization stop, children typically have to come forward to someone—normally a parent, teacher, caregiver, or law enforcement. The embarrassment children feel from the activity they were coerced or enticed to engage in is what typically prevents them from coming forward. Sextortion offenders may have hundreds of victims around the world. Coming forward to help law enforcement identify the offender is one of the best ways to stop the cycle of sexual exploitation.

“We want parents, teachers, other relatives, anyone who is in a child’s life, to be aware,” said Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch, Jr. “Having these critical conversations with your child or keeping tabs on their online activity is a responsibility no parent should take lightly. Education is the best form of prevention and nothing is more important than protecting your child.”

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 your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
  6. Talk to your child about the risks and dangers of sharing sexually explicit images or videos.

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

  1. Contact your local FBI field office (contact information can be found at www.fbi.gov), 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).
  2. Do not delete anything 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.

In 2021, the IC3 received over 18,000 sextortion-related complaints, with losses over $13.6 million. This number reflects all types of sextortion reported, not just this particular scheme.

For more information, including questions you should ask your kids, go to: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/sextortion and https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/stop-sextortion-youth-face-risk-online-090319