FBI Philadelphia
Public Affairs Specialist Sofia Kettler
May 9, 2022

FBI Philadelphia Warns of Increase in Sextortion Incidents, More Schemes Targeting Boys

FBI Philadelphia is warning parents and caregivers about an increase in incidents involving the sextortion of children.

Sextortion begins when an adult contacts a minor over any online platform used to meet and communicate, such as a game, app, or social media account.

In a scheme that’s 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 secretly recorded by the predator. The predator then reveals that they’ve made the recordings and attempts to extort the victim, demanding money or additional explicit images, or else they’ll post the recordings online.

The same criminal approach is used to target minor girls, as well.

In some cases, the perpetrators will use deceit in soliciting high school boys to share photos of female classmates, thus increasing the victimization of these offenses.

To be clear: 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 a life sentence for the offender.

The embarrassment children feel from the activity they were forced to engage in is what typically prevents them from coming forward. Know that sextortion offenders may have hundreds of victims around the world, so coming forward to help law enforcement identify the offender may prevent further sexual exploitation of that victim and others.

“Using the anonymity of the Internet, these criminals are creating age-appropriate personas to lure young people in and, unfortunately, they’ve gotten very good at it,” said Jacqueline Maguire, FBI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge. “We want to educate the community about this insidious crime, to prevent more kids from falling victim to sextortion. We ask adults to talk to the kids in your life about this — and we ask anyone who may have been victimized to let us know. The FBI and our partners are doing everything we can to bring these predators to justice.”

Some tips to stay safe:

  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 learn a lot of useful information about you.
  2. Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
  3. Remember 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. Report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.

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

  1. Contact your local FBI field office, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-THE-LOST or CyberTipline.org).
  2. Don’t 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 the details can be a big help as we work to find the offender.

More information on sextortion and resources for parents and caregivers can be found at fbi.gov/sextortion.