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More teen boys are being targeted in ‘sextortion’ scams, FBI says

FBI warning parents about increase in 'sextortion' cases
FBI warning parents about increase in 'sextortion' cases
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 11:45 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- FBI agents in Phoenix are warning parents that they’re seeing an increase in “sextortion” scams now that school is out for the year.

The FBI says “sextortion” occurs when an adult contacts a child over various online platforms (websites, social media, apps, etc...) and uses deception and manipulation to convince a young boy or girl to engage in explicit activity over various video chats, while secretly recording it. The adult predator will then reveal they’ve recorded the video and attempts to extort the child for money to avoid having the video posted online.

As summer gets underway, they want to remind caregivers that it’s not just girls being targeted. Agents say they’re seeing an increasing amount of teen boys are being led on too. Experts say that these predators are specifically targeting minors between 14 and 17 years old.

“Disrupting these criminals is difficult, but the best ways to do just that are through awareness, education, and having important discussions with your children about their online safety,” said Sean Kaul, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Phoenix field office. “We completely understand that victims may feel embarrassed and afraid to come forward to report these incidents, but we really encourage victims to notify us so that these predators are held to account for their actions, if possible and, most importantly, prevented from harming another child.”

In April, Arizona’s Family spoke with Sgt. Nick Alamshaw with the Scottsdale Police Department’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit. He said the department tracks cases like this all the time. He said it is important for parents to have open conversations with their kids and warn them about online dangers.

What are some tips to prevent this from happening to my family?

  • 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 strangers.
  • 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 ask them to start talking to you on a different platform.
  • Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
  • Remind children that once photos are sent on the internet – through email or an app – that content is out there forever, and you can’t get it back.

If you or someone you know is a victim of a sextortion scam, they should call their local FBI Field Office and file a report with their police department. Parents and teens should also not delete anything before law enforcement reviews it, as it could help find the offenders. Child safety advocates also say there are multiple apps that parents can download that monitor teens’ social media and phones. To learn more resources and information, click here.