National Public Safety Alert Warns of Targeted Financial Sextortion of Minors
Today’s generation of youth lives in a society heavily influenced by technology. From entertainment to education and communication, the World Wide Web offers endless ways to occupy one’s time. The wrath of Covid-19 enhanced the prominence of screen time even more. Despite the countless ways the internet has helped navigate life in recent years it’s also created a gateway for significant, potentially life-threatening, harm.
Predators using deception to coerce young people into creating compromising images of themselves and then demanding money in exchange for not publicly releasing the explicit content is known as Financial Sextortion. Offenders take advantage of the solitude cultivated in online environments to seek out their victims. Usually under the guise of a fake woman’s profile, originating in West African countries, criminals target children between the ages of 14 and 17. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says they’ve interviewed victims as young as 10.
Throughout a one-year period, the FBI received over 7,000 tips leading to at least 3,000 victims and over a dozen suicides. As recently as December 22nd, 2022 an Illinois man was convicted of Sexual Exploitation and Sextortion of a Minor and sentenced to 22 years in federal custody. Justice being served should bring a sigh of relief but the sad reality of our time is that many children aren’t included in statistics due to shame and fear surrounding the idea of coming forward. The FBI says the best defense to protect your children against Financial Sextortion is a good offense: have conversations with your kids about what to do if they’re targeted online.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) outlined tips for caregivers whose children have been exploited.
- Remember, the predator is to blame, not your child or you.
- Get help before deciding whether to pay money or otherwise comply with the predator. Cooperating or paying rarely stops the blackmail and continued harassment.
- Report the predator’s account via the platform’s safety feature.
- Block the predator and do not delete the profile or messages because that can be helpful to law enforcement in identifying and stopping them.
- Let NCMEC help get explicit images of you off the internet.
- Visit missingkids.org/IsYourExplicitContentOutThere to learn how to notify companies yourself or visit cybertipline.org to report to us for help with the process.
- Ask for help. This can be a very complex problem and may require help from adults or law enforcement.
- If you don’t feel that you have adults in your corner, you can reach out to NCMEC for support at email@example.com or call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST.
- Take a moment to learn how sextortion works and how to talk to your children about it. Information, resources, and conversation guides are available at fbi.gov/sextortion.
An exploited child is a victim and crimes against them should be reported to your local FBI field office, called at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or reported online at tips.fbi.gov. Tune in next time to hear information on local resources, as well as prevention and victim advocacy programs.