The FBI is warning parents of an increase in "sextortion" schemes happening on social media that target teen boys.
The warning comes from FBI Boston Division’s Child Exploitation – Human Trafficking Task Force, which investigates such crimes.
In a statement released Wednesday, the agency reported that in 2021, there were over 18,000 sextortion-related complaints. The complaints resulted in a $13.6 million dollar loss to those involved.
The agency describes the term "sextortion" as crimes involving adults coercing kids and teens into sending explicit images online.
This particular warning is addressing an increase in cases where adults pose as teen girls and contact teen boys through social media. These adults, disguised as girls, create a bond with their victim until the teen sends them sexual images and videos. After these videos are sent, the disguised adults try to extort money from the teens to prevent the sexual images from being posted online.
The targets are usually teen boys ages 14-17, according to the FBI.
The FBI is urging parents of young teens to speak to their children about online safety. The agency offered tips on how to protect yourself and your child online:
- Be mindful of what personnel information you share online.
- Be cautious of anyone that you encounter online for the first time. Block or ignore messages from strangers
- Be aware that people pretend to be anything or anyone online and that pictures/videos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be
- Be cautious about people you meet on an online game or app, and they ask you to take the conversation to another platform.
- Encourage your child to report any suspicious behavior to a trusted adult '
The agency also warned that victims of such crimes are often embarrassed and may be hesitant to report them.
"Sextortion" is a crime that can include up to life sentences for the offender and other harsh penalties, the FBI said. The agency vows to "unmask these criminals and ensure they face justice."