What is sextortion? How to keep your children safe from online predators

Crime

A close up of the hands of a young woman using a mobile phone

UTAH (ABC4) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says they have seen an increase in cases involving children and teens being threatened and coerced by adults into sending explicit images online.

This is a crime FBI officials are calling sextortion.

Which environments are primes for sextortion?

Officials say sextortion can start on any site, app, or game where people meet and communicate.

Officials added that in some cases, the first contact from the criminal will be a threat.

They also emphasized that those who commit this crime have studied how to reach and target children and teens.

The person may claim to already have incriminating images or video of a child that they will share if the victim does not send more pictures.

Most of the time, these crimes happen when young people think they are talking to someone their age who is interested in a relationship or is giving them something of value.

The adults who perpetrate these crimes use threats, gifts, money, flattery, lies, or other methods to get a child or young person to give them explicit pictures.

Officials say after the criminal has one or more of these videos or phots, they then threaten to share or publish them. They may also threaten violence to get the victim to send more pictures.

The shame, fear, and confusion children feel when they are caught in this cycle often causes them to avoid asking for help or report the abuse.

Officials are asking caregivers and children caught in these situations to understand how the crime happens and openly discuss online safety.

How can I help someone else who is in this situation?

  • FBI officials say if you learn a friend, classmate, or family member is being victimized, listen to them with kindness and understanding.
  • Tell them you are sorry that this is happening to them and that you want to help.
  • Let them know that they are the victim of a crime and have not done anything wrong.
  • Encourage them to ask for help and see if you can help them identify a trusted adult to tell.

How do you protect yourself and your friends? The FBI has a six tips to help you:

Courtesy: FBI

1. Be selective about what you share online. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you.

2. Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.

3. Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be. Images can be altered or stolen. In some cases, predators have even taken over the social media accounts of their victims.

4. Be suspicious if you meet someone on s game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.

5. Be in the know. Any content you create online — whether it is a text message, photo, or video —can be made public. Nothing actually “disappears” online. Once you send something, you don’t have any control over where it goes next.

6. Be willing to ask for help. If you are getting messages or requests online that don’t seem right, block the sender, report the behavior to the site administrator, or go to an adult. If you have been victimized online, tell someone.

Anyone who is being exploited is asked to report it by contacting their local FBI field office, call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at tips.fbi.gov.

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