The FBI is warning parents and caregivers about an increase in sextortion schemes targeting boys.
Supervisory Special Agent Barbara Smith of the FBI’s Washington Field Office says the bureau’s tip line has been receiving frantic calls from panicked teenage boys.
Girls who they meet online ask them to send graphic images of themselves — but they turn out to be adults asking for $300 or $400 or else they will expose the victims, according to the FBI.
“They ask the boys to do ridiculous things,” Smith said. “The more ridiculous the better because that’s going to be more humiliating, and the more humiliating it is, the more money they can extort from them.”
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Once FBI agents become involved, they lead the boys and their families through a process that not only includes an investigation but also the steps of trying to ensure the images are not distributed.
“Unfortunately, because at this point we now have production of child pornography, we have to retrieve the images and the videos and send those to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children so that we can have a catalog of the images that were created and the victim can be provided victim services and restitution in the cases … where we find those images being used by other child predators,” Smith said.
The FBI says parents should talk to their kids about schemes like this, advising them to be suspicious if someone met in a game or app wants to start talking on another platform, that videos and photos are not proof of identity and that suspicious behavior should be reported to a trusted adult.
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“They are looking for money,” Smith said. “They’re not our traditional child predators that are looking for additional images.”
The FBI stresses that no matter how embarrassing the images may be, do not delete them, since they will be used as evidence in the case.
“This has been going on for several years; what’s new is the frequency, and more children are falling victim to this scam,” Smith said.
If you believe you're a victim of sextortion, or know someone else who is, the FBI advises you to call your local FBI office or the toll-free number at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report the crime online at tips.fbi.gov.