Feds warn parents about ‘sextortion’ of children on apps | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11) — Homeland Security Investigations in Newark, New Jersey joined with federal and state partners Friday to issue an Internet Safety Guide, as children get ready to leave school for the summer months — and predators stand ready to exploit kids online.

“The fight starts at home,” Special Agent in Charge Rick Patel said, as he noted that “any device, including gaming apps, can be used for communications with our children.”

Patel was joined by Jose Riera, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service in New Jersey, who stressed “it is imperative that parents and guardians keep informed about their kids’ internet exposure.”

Phillip Sellinger, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, told reporters there have been more than 167,000 investigations of crimes against children in 2022 alone.

“Sextortion” is a growing problem, which happens when minors are enticed to remove clothing online or send compromising photos, only to be forced to send money to keep the embarrassing pictures off the web.

Sellinger said federal authorities received more than 7,000 reports of sextortion of minors last year.

“You, the parent, are our first line of defense. Please take time to understand the device,” FBI supervisory agent Kevin Matthews said.

Col. Patrick Callahan, superintendent of New Jersey State Police, said there are task forces with undercover officers working to track down predators.

“I want online predators to think the next time they’re on an online platform they won’t be talking to an 8-year-old,” Callahan said. “It could be an undercover detective.”

The team of state and federal officers encouraged parents to reach out if they feel their child has been approached by a predator.

The phone number for Cyber and Child Exploitation Crimes is (973) 776-5500.

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