FBI Pittsburgh
Public Affairs Officer Catherine Policicchio
(412) 432-4291
April 4, 2022

FBI Pittsburgh Warns of Increase in Sextortion Schemes Targeting Teenage Boys

The FBI Pittsburgh Field Office is warning parents and caregivers about an increase in incidents in the Pittsburgh area involving sextortion of teenagers. The FBI is receiving an increasing number of reports of adults posing as age-appropriate females coercing young boys through social media to produce sexual images and videos and then extorting money from them.

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 has 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 then secretly recorded by the scammer. The scammer then reveals that they have made the recordings and attempts to extort the victim for money to prevent them from being posted online.

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 forced to engage in is what typically prevents them from coming forward. Sextortion offenders may have hundreds of victims around the world, so coming forward to help law enforcement identify the offender may prevent countless other incidents of sexual exploitation to that victim and others.

"These are not the traditional child predators that are just looking for more explicit images. They’re looking for money,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall. “We want parents and caregivers to talk with their kids about schemes like this. Education is key to stopping these individuals and sparing our children the shame, fear, and confusion they feel when they’re caught in this cycle. We want kids to know that if someone they’ve met on social media starts asking for videos and photos and eventually money, that person should be reported.”

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.

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

More information about sextortion can be found at: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/stopsextortion-youth-face-risk-online-090319

For media inquiries or interviews, please call (412) 396-9504 or email cpolicicchio@fbi.gov.