Sextortion: A Growing Threat Targeting Minors
Offenders Deceive and Manipulate Victims to Create Sexually Explicit Material for Extortion Purposes
(Norfolk) The FBI wants to warn parents, educators, caregivers, and children about the dangers of online activity that may lead to the solicitation and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual acts.
Sextortion involves an offender coercing a minor to create and send sexually explicit images or video. An offender gets sexually explicit material from the child, then threatens to release that compromising material unless the victim produces more. These offenders are seeking sexual gratification.
Financially motivated sextortion is a criminal act that involves an offender coercing a minor to create and send sexually explicit material. Offenders threaten to release that compromising material unless they receive payment, which is often requested in gift cards, mobile payment services, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. These offenders are motivated by financial gain, not necessarily just sexual gratification.
Victims are typically males between the ages of 14 to 17, but any child can become a victim. For financially motivated sextortion, offenders are usually located outside the United States and primarily in West African countries such as Nigeria and Ivory Coast, or Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines.
These crimes can lead victims to self-harm and have led to suicide. From October 2021 to March 2023, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations received over 13,000 reports of online financial sextortion of minors. The sextortion involved at least 12,600 victims—primarily boys—and led to at least 20 suicides.
In the six-month period from October 2022 to March 2023, the FBI observed at least a 20% increase in reporting of financially motivated sextortion incidents involving minor victims compared to the same time period the previous year.
In Hampton Roads, there were at least 14 reports of sextortion and financial sextortion involving children.
“We’re seeing an alarming increase in both sextortion and financial sextortion across the U.S. and continuing to see some of that activity here in Hampton Roads,” said Special Agent in Charge Brian Dugan of the FBI Norfolk’s Field Office. “One of the best lines of defense to stopping a crime like this is to educate our most vulnerable on common warning signs, as well as empowering them to come forward if they are ever victimized.”
If you or someone you know believes that they are a victim of sextortion or financially motivated sextortion, immediately report the activity to law enforcement. You can report it to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or visiting tips.fbi.gov.
For more information on sextortion and financial sextortion, visit the FBI’s resources on the threats at: https://www.fbi.gov/sextortion and https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/sextortion/financially-motivated-sextortion.