FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Leonard Carollo said agents have noted an increase over the last year in sextortion schemes targeting children.
The FBI has received numerous reports of predators attempting to coerce children into sending sexual videos of themselves and then extorting money from the victims. Carollo explains why this type of crime is on the rise.
It’s important that parents, guardians and teenagers be aware of this growing online danger. Sextortion is a crime. The coercion of a child by an adult to produce child sexual abuse material (CSAM) carries heavy penalties, including potential life sentences for offenders. The embarrassment children feel from the coerced activity is what usually prevents them from coming forward. When victims are emboldened to tell someone, it is typically a parent, teacher, caregiver or other trusted adult.
Sextortion offenders frequently have dozens of victims around the world but evade law enforcement attention due to the stigma many teens attach to reporting their victimization. Coming forward to help law enforcement identify a predator might prevent countless future incidents of sexual exploitation. Earlier this month, Wyoming FBI agents helped investigate a sextortion case involving the arrest in Malaysia of a Bangladeshi national. That subject exploited hundreds of minor victims before he was apprehended.
Here are some tips to protect children online:
• Parents should be selective about what they share online. If social media accounts are open to everyone, offenders can easily learn about parents and their children, and then use that information for their predatory purposes.
• Be wary of anyone you encounter online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
• People can pretend to be anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
• Be highly suspicious if someone you meet on a game or app asks you to start communicating with them on a different platform.
• Encourage children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.