The FBI is warning parents and caregivers in Illinois about an uptick in incidents where adults posing as girls are coercing boys on social media and extorting money from them.
The FBI says that “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, who usually poses as a young girl, uses deception and manipulation to convince a young male, usually 14-17 years old, to engage in explicit activity over video, which is secretly recorded by the predator.
The predator then reveals that they have made the recordings and attempts to extort the victim for money to prevent the video or photos from being posted online.
Sextortion is a crime and coercion of a child by an adult to produce what is considered sexual abuse material carries heavy penalties, which can include up to life sentences for the offender.
The FBI says children typically have to come forward to someone, such as a parent, teacher, caregiver or law enforcement.
However, the embarrassment children feel from the activity they were 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 of that victim and others, the FBI said.
The FBI says that parents should make sure their children are selective about what they share online, especially personal information and passwords.
Anyone who is the victim of sextortion should contact their local FBI field office, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In 2021, the IC3 received over 18,000 sextortion-related complaints with losses of over $13.6 million, officials said. “This number reflects all types of sextortion reported, not just this particular scheme.”