The FBI Portland Field Office is warning parents, caregivers, and teens about an increase in sextortion crimes across the country. The FBI is receiving an increasing number of reports of adults posing as young girls coercing teenage boys through social media to produce sexual images and videos, then extorting money from them.
Sextortion begins when an adult contacts a minor over an 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, threatening the victim to pay or have the explicit photos or videos 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 a life sentence for the offender. To make the victimization stop, children should tell someone, typically a parent, teacher, caregiver, or law enforcement. While it can be embarrassing for the child, coming forward to help law enforcement identify the offender may prevent countless other incidents of sexual exploitation to that victim and others.
“It is hard to imagine anyone doing this to children. Literally exploiting their innocence for money. The fraudsters earn their trust, then demand money to keep explicit photos a secret. This is a true example of how dire and disgusting criminals can be. Talk to your children now, tell them if someone they’ve met online ask for videos or photos, then money, immediately tell a parent or trusted adult and law enforcement to stop further victimization,” said FBI Portland Special Agent in Charge Kieran L. Ramsey.
The FBI provides the following tips to protect you and your children online:
- 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.
- Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from
- 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.
- Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to
them on a different platform.
- Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:
- 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).
- Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
- 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.