FBI Warns About Increase of Financial ‘Sextortion’ Schemes Targeting Minors

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The FBI issued a warning Friday about the increase of financial “sextortion” schemes targeting minors. “The FBI has seen a significant increase in financially motivated sextortion schemes online,” Laura Eimiller of the FBI said in a statement. “Victims are typically males between the ages of 14 to 17, but any child can become a victim. Offenders are usually located outside the United States.” According to the FBI, children who access the Internet via online gaming, gaming consoles, live streaming or video platforms, instant message apps, and social media are vulnerable to online predators. The predators 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, 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,” Alway said. Offenders often use a “catfishing” tactic by impersonating a child of a similar age to gain a victim’s trust, the FBI said. For example, a boy may think he is 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. Also, offenders may ask the child to switch to a second platform capable of video calling and chatting. 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 with 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 running financially motivated sextortion schemes threaten to release the compromising material unless the victim sends money, gift cards, cryptocurrency, or other payment. In some instances, offenders send 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. “Children who may create an incentive for continued extortion,” the FBI said in a statement. “In addition, offenders sometimes create images to elicit a response from the child.” The following safety tips were offered by the FBI: — 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, contact your local FBI field office. Information is available at www.fbi.gov for contact information Reports may also be made to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 800-THE-LOST, or Cybertipline.org. More information about sextortion can be found at: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/stop-sextortion-youth-face-risk-online-090319. –City News Service

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