FBI officials are warning that criminals posing as young girls are tricking a growing number of teenagers into performing sex acts on camera that end up being recorded and used to blackmail them.
Los Angeles-based investigators received dozens of ‘sextortion’ targeting reports young boys, FBI officials said in a press release Thursday, April 28.
Victims are usually told to pay money to prevent images of them in compromising positions from being posted online. In some cases, they are required to take additional photos of themselves.
“With the pervasive nature of modern technology, our children are increasingly vulnerable targets for online predators,” Kristi Johnson, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles division, said Thursday. “The most effective way to disrupt these criminals is to raise awareness, educate and have meaningful discussions with your children about their online safety.”
Many people who engage in sextortion of teenage boys are overseas, FBI officials said. They often demand increasing amounts of money over time and can claim hundreds of victims worldwide.
Many victims of sextortion become embarrassed or ashamed, and the targeted children may fear getting into trouble if they find themselves on a website they were too young for or if they accept gifts from someone online. This can make it difficult for them to report these crimes to parents, teachers or the police. But law enforcement is not holding the victims responsible and investigators are urging them to come forward.
The best way to fight sextortion is to prevent it from happening, FBI officials said. They advise people to be wary of what they share and to be wary of people claiming to be online. Photos and videos can be easily obtained on the Internet and do not constitute reliable proof of a person’s identity.
Those blackmailed by extortionists should not delete any images, photos or other potential evidence, the FBI says. Even though the material may be embarrassing, investigators need as much evidence as possible to pursue anonymous cybercriminals.
Sextortion and similar crimes can be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-the-lost (800-843-5678) or Cybertipline.org.