SYRACUSE, Utah (ABC4) — The Syracuse Police Department is raising awareness of online sextortion saying there is a rise in cases in Utah and across the nation, which the FBI says is particularly targeting adolescent boys.
Syracuse Police say law enforcement agencies across the nation are witnessing an increase in sextortion. The Salt Lake City FBI corroborates this saying they have witnessed an increase in sextortion of children, especially young boys, within the states they cover — Utah, Montana, and Idaho — and across the nation.
What is sextortion?
Sextortion is when someone, often a young person, is convinced by an adult predator they met online to send explicit photos of themselves, according to the FBI. If the young person begins to resist the requests they then threaten to harm or expose them, often demanding money as part of the blackmailing.
The Salt Lake City FBI says they receive dozens of reports of sextortion every month. The bureau reports a trending scheme of predators posing as young girls in order to manipulate male victims, usually between 12 and 17 years old, into sending explicit content of themselves.
Tips to avoid sextortion
The Syracuse Police provided the following red flags when communicating with a stranger online: a fast-paced conversation that quickly turns to “adult” topics, the profile has typos and/or a small number of friends and photos, the person says they don’t have a working camera, the conversation “doesn’t add up,” and the use of fear tactics.
Syracuse Police emphasizes the importance of not sharing any private images with strangers.
In addition, the FBI said to remember that photos of a person are not proof that they are who they say they are and to be suspicious if the internet user asks you to switch platforms, such as from a gaming app to social media.
The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) says the best way to prevent sextortion and other Internet crimes against children is to have “education and continued conversation[s].”
This includes speaking with your children about these risks and reminding them to tell a trusted adult if this occurs to them, even if it is embarrassing.
What to do if you, or your child, is a victim of sextortion
If you or your child has been a victim of sextortion, the FBI says it is essential not to delete the content. This way law enforcement can use it to catch the criminal and prevent future incidents of sextortion.
Next, contact the field office in your region, such as the Salt Lake City FBI, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-the-lost). While officials recognize telling officers about your experience may be uncomfortable or difficult, it is a necessary step in order to identify and prosecute the predator.
Once connected with a trusted authority, agents can investigate the situation and protect the victim from further harm.