The FBI Boston Division’s Child Exploitation – Human Trafficking Task Force has issued a warning about a "sextortion" scam that has been targeting teen boys.
According to the FBI, sextortion begins when an adult contacts a minor over any online platform used to meet and communicate, such as a game, app, or social media account.
Adult scammers, posing as young girls, have been contacting boys between the ages of 14 and 17 and coerces them into engaging in explicit sexual activity in front of their webcams, the FBI reports.
The predators then reveal they've recorded the incidents and threaten to post them online -- unless the victims pay the scammers. In 2021, more than $13.6 million was scammed in 18,000 sextortion incidents, the FBI reports.
"Predators who ask for sexually explicit photos, videos and then money to terrorize young victims with threats of posting their images online are incredibly disturbing, and on our radar," says Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division. "In order to spare children of the shame, fear and confusion they feel when this happens, we’re asking parents and caregivers to talk to their children now about their online safety, and the importance of speaking up to prevent further victimization."
The FBI offered a handful of tips in order to keep your child safe online. These tips included:
- Be selective about what you share online, especially anything regarding your personal information and passwords. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you or your children.
- Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Be weary and block or ignore messages from strangers.
- 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.
- Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
- Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.