CHICAGO - The FBI is warning parents of an increase in sextortion schemes targeting teenage boys.
In Chicago and nationwide, officials have seen an alarming rise in cases where adults are posing as girls and young women online, and coercing young boys to engage in sexually explicit activity via video chat. In some cases, predators are using trafficking victims to lure teenage boys into producing sexual content.
As part of the scheme, officials say the predators will secretly record those encounters, then threaten to release the images and videos unless the victim sends them money.
"The increase that we are seeing now is the number of complaints for what we are calling financially motivated sextortion," said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Wesley Tagtmeyer.
FBI officials say that boys between the ages of 14 and 17 are being targeted on various social media apps and gaming platforms, but older and younger boys have been victims as well.
"We’ve seen this across multiple platforms, social media, we’ve seen introductions made over gaming platforms," said Tagtmeyer. "Even though they can send you a picture, a video, or even sometimes what appears to be live streaming that purports them to be a 17-year-old girl, you may not in fact be communicating with a 17-year-old girl."
Officials say that after a predator gets sexually explicit content from the child, they ask for money to be sent through mobile payment apps in amounts as small as $50, and as large as thousands of dollars. Predators will sometimes ask for the child to send them gift cards as well.
"When the incident is over, they’re like, ‘now you’re going to go to your mom’s wallet, give me her credit card, give me the pin number on the back and I’m going to charge $1000. If you don’t, your church, your sport, your work, your school are all going to see what you just did, and here’s some samples of what we have,’" said Rich Wistocki, retired Naperville police detective & BeSure Consulting president. LINK: https://www.besureconsulting.com/
Last year alone, there were 18,000 such incidents reported nationwide, but officials say there could be many more victims who have not come forward.
Wistocki urges parents to monitor your kids' online activity and to talk to your children about the dangers of communicating online with anyone they do not know in real life.
"It’s so important for parents to monitor their kids devices all the way up until they’re 18," said Wistocki.
Officials are also urging teens to be cautious of what they share online.
"If it’s not something you want your grandparents to see, or your parents or your friends, don’t send it," said Tagtmeyer. "Think before you post, don't send them that picture or that video, even if you think you're sending something over a live-streaming video platform. There's technology where the offender can be recording that on their own without your knowledge, and then they can use that against you. And lastly, if you do become victim to one of these schemes, you're not alone, tell a trusted adult, parent, an aunt, an uncle and notify law enforcement, so we can try to get you help."
If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:
- Contact your local FBI field office (contact information can be found at www.fbi.gov), the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-the-lost or Cybertipline.org).
- Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
- Tell law enforcement everything about the encounters you had online; it may be embarrassing, but it is necessary to find the offender.
Coming forward may help identify the predator and prevent others from being exploited.