Sextortion PSA – Salt Lake City

Sextortion can start on any site, app, messaging platform, or game where people meet and communicate. In some cases, the first contact from the criminal will be a threat. The person may claim to already have a revealing picture or video of a child that will be shared if the victim does not send more pictures. More often, however, this crime starts when young people believe they are communicating with someone their own age who is interested in a relationship or with someone who is offering something of value. Learn more about sextortion and how to protect yourself and your loved ones: https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/safety-resources/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/sextortion. If young people are being exploited, they are the victim of a crime and should report it. Contact your local FBI field office, call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at tips.fbi.gov.


Video Transcript

Silhouetted woman with text

“Michelle”/Victim’s Mother

“I didn’t realize that something was going on until I got the call from school. It was the principal of the school saying, ‘You need to go home right now, something’s wrong.’”

“He was already home from school that day because he had told me he wasn’t feeling well. There were messages sent to a few of his good friends, just saying goodbye in a sense, you know, telling people he loves them. Thankfully those friends came forward to school officials.”

“I called my stepdad and just said, ‘I need you to go to my house right now.’ When my stepdad arrived at the house, he found my son in a situation where it appeared that he was actively thinking about committing suicide.”

GRAPHIC: As soon as “Michelle” got home, she rushed her son to the hospital.

“He eventually said, ‘Mom I need to tell you something.’ He had started talking to a girl on social media. It was a girl his age. They had started talking about being in a boyfriend, girlfriend relationship, and that she had asked him to send her pictures of himself. He did that.”

“Almost immediately it turned into her asking him for money. It became very demanding and aggressive. She had sent him pictures of his school’s social media account, a number of his friends’ social media accounts, my social media account. She had told him that she knows where we live. He was trying to figure out what to do.”

“I realized that this is not some teenage girl.”

“I blocked the phone number that had been calling him and almost immediately, a different phone number started texting him. They sent him what looked to be an FBI identify card and said that the FBI was looking into him.”

“I never thought this would happen to us.”

GRAPHIC: Over the past year, law enforcement has received over 7,000 reports related to the online financial sextortion of minors, resulting in at least 3,000 victims, primarily boys, and more than a dozen suicides.

“I think it’s terrifying that somebody can be the kind of human being that preys on people like that.”

GRAPHIC: Fortunately, “Michelle’s” son got help before it was too late.

“He’s doing great. He’s just a wonderful kid. He’s happy he’s healthy.”

“To other parents, I would say talk to your kids and let them know this is going on, and let them know that it’s safe to talk to somebody about it.”

GRAPHIC: Sextortion is a crime that involves adults coercing kids and teens into sending explicit images online.

Aaron Eisner/Supervisory Resident Special Agent

“The sexual exploitation of children is something we’re seeing a significantly growing presence of. We’re generally seeing the perpetrators target young boys ages 12-17 who have a social media presence. Unfortunately, we’re seeing a growing trend of some of these young men turning to self-harm and contemplating self-harm such as Michelle’s son.”

Graphic: The Salt Lake City FBI is seeing this trend in Utah, Idaho, and Montana, with dozens of reports received every month.

“That is only the tip of the iceberg because many of these kinds of cases don’t go reported. In a lot of these situations, the perpetrators are overseas so when that happens, the FBI works with our foreign law enforcement partners to try to put a stop to this and hold the people who are overseas accountable.”

“We want to encourage parents to talk to their kids as much as possible about what they’re doing online and to be aware of the risks of what they’re doing, especially when it comes to sending very personal pictures. The children who do this, they are victims, and that’s how the FBI views them, and there are significant resources the FBI provides, and if there are children out there who are seeing this, hearing me talk, please reach out to our local FBI offices and we will provide you with victim services.”

GRAPHIC: Report sextortion to your local FBI field office, call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or it report it online at tips.fbi.gov.

GRAPHIC: Information, resources, and conversation guides are available at fbi.gov/sextortion.

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