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Consumer Alert: Sextortion Schemes are on the Rise

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The FBI is warning the public to beware of an increase in financial sextortion schemes targeting children under 18. Sextortion occurs when a person contacts a minor online, often on gaming systems, apps, or social media where children spend a lot of time. Law enforcement has received more than 7,000 reports about young people being victims of financial sextortion.

These sextortion schemes have primarily been targeting boys aged 14 to 17 years old. The criminals, who pose as a friend or someone the same age as the person they are targeting, will pressure the victim into sending them explicit content or images of themselves and then blackmail the victim into paying them money or threatening to release the images.

During the holiday season’s longer school breaks, kids might find themselves spending more time on the internet. It is important to take steps to protect your loved ones.

  • Continue a conversation with your children. Talk to your children about safe internet use and guidelines for healthy behavior. You can download our office’s family tech safety agreement as a guide here.
  • Monitor your child’s social media use and make sure they know not to communicate with people whose identities you have not verified. Consider enabling parental controls on social media apps or installing third-party apps that allow greater control and monitoring for dangerous content.
  • Never send explicit photos, videos, or other content via text or through the internet.
  • Be mindful of what you post. Sextortion scammers may gather personal information from public posts and use that information to target victims.
  • Keep an eye on your children’s behavior. Look out for changes in behavior that indicate your child is increasingly anxious or under stress. Ask for help from law enforcement or medical professionals if you need it.
  • Speak up. If someone contacts you or your child and demands money in exchange for not releasing your photos or videos, contact your local FBI field office at 1-800-CALL-FBI or report it online at tips.fbi.gov.

If you believe that you have been the victim of a financial scam, contact our office’s Consumer Protection Division at ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

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