FBI Knoxville Field Office Warns of Increase in Sextortion Schemes Targeting Young Boys
The FBI Knoxville Field Office is warning parents and caregivers about an increase in incidents involving sextortion of young children. The FBI is receiving an increasing number of reports of adults posing as young girls coercing young boys through social media to produce sexual images and videos and then extorting money and/or additional imagery from them.
Sextortion begins when an adult contacts a minor over any 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 are then secretly recorded by the predator. The predator then reveals that they have made the recordings and attempts to extort the victim for money and/or additional imagery to prevent them from being 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 life sentences for the offender. In order for the victimization to stop, children typically have to come forward to someone—normally a parent, teacher, caregiver, or law enforcement. The embarrassment of the activity a child was forced to engage in is what typically prevents them from coming forward. Sextortion offenders may have hundreds of victims around the world, so coming forward to help law enforcement identify the offender may prevent countless other incidents of sexual exploitation to that victim and others.
“Sextortion can have a devastating impact on victims, and it can happen to anyone,” said Special Agent in Charge Joe Carrico of the FBI Knoxville Field Office. “While in the safety of their own home victims are being targeted by sexual predators on the very devices they use for homework, gaming, or simply communicating with friends.”
The FBI provides the following tips to protect you and your children online:
1. 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.
2. Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
3. 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.
4. Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
5. Be willing to ask for help. If you are getting messages or requests that don’t seem right, block the sender and report the behavior.
If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:
1. 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).
2. Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
3. 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. More information about sextortion can be found at https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/stop-sextortion-youth-face-risk-online-090319.