FBI officials are warning that criminals are posing as young girls to fool a growing number of teenage boys into performing sexual acts on camera that wind up being recorded and used to blackmail them.
Investigators based in Los Angeles have received dozens of reports of “sextortion” targeting young boys, FBI officials said in a news release.
The victims are typically told to pay money to prevent images of them in compromising positions from being published online. In some cases, they are forced to make additional photos of themselves.
“With the ubiquitous nature of modern technology, our children are increasingly vulnerable targets for online predators” Kristi Johnson, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Los Angeles Division, said in a statement on April 28.
“The most effective way to disrupt these criminals is through awareness, education, and having important discussions with your children about their online safety.”
Many of the people who engage in sextortion of teens are located overseas, FBI officials said. They often demand increasing amounts of money over time, and may have hundreds of victims located all over the globe.
Many victims of sextortion become embarrassed or ashamed, and children who are targeted may worry that they will get in trouble for being on a website they were too young for or accepting gifts from someone online. That can make it difficult for them to report these crimes to parents, teachers or police. But law enforcement does not hold victims at fault, and investigators urge them to come forward.
The best way to combat sextortion is to prevent it from happening, FBI officials said. They advise people to be wary of what they share and suspicious of who people claim to be online. Photos and videos can be easily obtained from the Internet, and are not reliable proof of a person’s identity.
Those who do become blackmailed by extortionists should not delete any images, photos or other potential evidence. Even though the material might be embarrassing, investigators need as much evidence as possible in order to go after anonymous cybercriminals. – The Orange County Register/Tribune News Service