ABC24 spoke with Randy Hutchinson from the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South (BBB) about what parents and kids need to know about the scams.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued an alert about an increase in extortion scams, also known as sextortion, often involving young boys.
Be aware: sextortion can start on any site, app, or game – anywhere people communicate online. More often it begins when children believe they are communicating with someone their own age. The schemer will use threats, gifts, money, flattery, lies, or other ways to get a child to send them a sexually explicit image.
How sextortion scams work
- Crooks will pose as young girls or boys and initiate contact with the victims online.
- They convince the victims to share explicit photos or engage in explicit activity which is then recorded by the scammer.
- The person behind the scheme will then demand money to prevent images from being shared online.
- In another variation, victims receive an email message saying claiming spyware was installed on their computer and recorded them visiting porn sites and engaging in explicit behavior. The scammer then demands payment to prevent their release.
How often and where do they happen?
- The FBI received more than 18,000 sextortion-related complaints in 2021
- Sextortion scams can crop up on dating apps, teen chat apps, online games, social media – anywhere people chat online.
- The FBI also issued an alert in September about sextortion scams on LGBTQ dating apps.
The scam has had deadly results
A 17-year-old boy in San Jose, California, committed suicide in February hours after someone pretending to be a girl online convinced him to send an explicit picture, then demanding $5,000 not to post it. Investigators said he paid $150, but killed himself as the scammer demanded more.
Investigators said a 17-year old Michigan boy committed suicide in March after falling victim to the scam. They said he met someone posing as a young girl on Twitter, and ended up sharing an explicit photo. They said the boy paid the crooks $300 to prevent its release, but then killed himself when they demanded more money. Investigators said only six hours passed from when they boy first got the initial message to his suicide.
Meanwhile, a Florida man was sentenced to 105 years in prison after convincing hundreds of teenage girls to engage in sexual activity online and threatening to share the images unless they sent more.
What can parents and do to protect themselves?
- Be careful about what is shared online or through text messages.
- Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online.
- Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online.
- Encourage children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
- Calm down before taking any action.
- Report the crime to the local FBI office and don’t delete anything before they’ve reviewed it.
Find more important information from the FBI HERE.
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