FBI warns of sextortion scheme targeting minors

October 27, 2023


The FBI issued a warning Friday about the increase of financially motivated “sextortion” schemes targeting primarily males between the ages of 14 to 17.

The FBI is asking parents to watch for online activity that may lead to the solicitation and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual acts. Children who access the internet via online gaming, gaming consoles, livestreaming or video platforms, instant message apps and social media are vulnerable to online predators. These offenders use different tactics to lure children to engage in inappropriate behavior.

“Several young people have taken their own life based on the feelings of fear and shame that result from sextortion and subsequent financial targeting,” said Donald Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Whether you’re a parent, guardian, educator, coach or have some role in the life of a young person, please talk to them about this crime and how to avoid becoming a victim.”

Offenders often use a “catfishing” tactic by impersonating a child of a similar age in order to gain a victim’s trust. For example, a boy thinks he’s chatting with a female and the perpetrator sends a nude photo or video of the female being impersonated to add legitimacy to the relationship. Predators sometimes hack legitimate accounts known to victims or create “copycat” accounts to make it appear as though the child knows them.

Offenders ask children to send sexually explicit images and videos and/or engage in sexually explicit activities via video call, then capture that material without the victims’ knowledge. If a child does not comply in producing sexually explicit imagery, offenders sometimes edit and create sexually explicit images of the child. Offenders also sometimes hack a child’s social media account to get sexually explicit material stored in the child’s account.

Offenders then threaten to release the compromising material unless the victim sends money, gift cards, cryptocurrency, or other payment. In some instances, offenders send the sexually explicit images or videos to family members or friends – even if the victims pay. Offenders have even extorted family members of victims who have committed suicide.

Victims often feel alone, embarrassed, and too afraid to seek help. Sextortion can lead victims to self-harm or suicide. Children should understand that any image or video—sexually explicit or otherwise—is completely out of their control as soon as it is transmitted.

The FBI is asking the public to review the tips below and share them with the children in their life:

  • Be selective about what you share online, especially your personal information and passwords (predators will visit open social media accounts to learn details about their victims).
  • 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 anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
  • Be suspicious if you meet someone while playing a video game or through another online forum and they suggest changing to a different application or method through which to communicate.
  • Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
    If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:


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