In such cases, the young victims are being convinced to send explicit videos or pictures to an adult and then blackmailed or threatened over the pictures or video.
The adult will use threats, gifts, money, flattery, lies, or other methods to get a young person to produce an image, according to agents.
After the suspect has at least one video or picture, they threaten to share and publish that content, or they threaten violence, to get the victim to produce more images.
Experts say the victims are shameful or fearful about what they’ve done and that will often keep them from asking for help or reporting the abuse.
A spokesperson told Nexstar that the FBI wasn’t able to give any updated national data as of Thursday. In 2021, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center tallied more than 18,000 total sextortion complaints – not just against children – with losses exceeding $13.6 million.
The FBI is asking parents and families to talk to their children about sextortion and the different precautions they need to take. They also suggest teaching minors how to ask for help if they end up a victim of sextortion, or know someone who is.
Some of those tips include:
- Be selective about what is shared online
- Be wary of anyone you meet online for the first time
- Block or ignore messages from strangers
There are also steps victims and their guardians can take to get images removed from websites if they are published.
The FBI said victims can contact websites where their explicit pictures and videos are hosted and request they be removed. Victims can also file a report with Missing Kids’ Cyber Tipline if they need help with the process. Victims can also call 1-800-843-5678 to report a site.