The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning of a major increase in a disturbing trend where teens, primarily boys, are being targeted for “sextortion.”
Officials say thousands of teenage boys are targeted to share explicit pictures and then they’re blackmailed for money. This kind of financial crime is known as sextortion.
The FBI recently released a report which showed that at least 3,000 children, mostly teenage boys, have fallen victim to this crime, WFXT reported. The agency said that sextortion cases are also connected to more than a dozen suicides this year alone.
Federal officials say these crimes begin where kids feel safe and comfortable and for many, that’s online. They say suspects often pose as young girls using fake accounts on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Boys between 14 and 17 are most commonly targeted, but the FBI says some victims are as young as 10 years old.
Authorities explain victims are then tricked into sending sexually explicit photos of themselves. According to law enforcement, once that happens, the suspect will threaten to release the compromising images unless they send money.
“What it does create is an extra layer of vulnerability and victimization. If and when that exploitation happens, teenage males may be less likely to come forward, to reach out for assistance to report to the authorities,” said Lauren Coffren, the Executive Director of National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Coffren suggests talking with your kids about this possible threat even if the conversation is uncomfortable.
“The best thing you can do is ask your child has this happened to anyone that you know, open up that dialogue, get them to start talking,” Coffren said, according to WFXT. “They’ll probably tell you stories of who they’ve heard it happened to whether in their school or in a local school as well.”
“Start asking about what would you do if this occurred when you’re online? How would you help navigate your way out of it? Would you come talk to me? What would you say? These are prime opportunities to be able to work through not just a plan to prevent exploitation, but a plan to get out of it,” Coffren went onto say.
Since many of the extortionists are from outside the United States, the FBI can do very little to stop them.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CYBERSMILE.ORG
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