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Sextortion targeting minors is a growing threat, FBI officials say

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is alerting parents, educators, caregivers and children about the dangers of online activity that may lead to the solicitation and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual acts, according to a recent news release from FBI officials.

Sextortion involves an offender coercing a minor to create and send sexually explicit images or video, authorities said. An adult offender gets sexually explicit material from the child, then threatens to release the material unless the victim produces more.

Such offenders are seeking sexual gratification, according to authorities.

Financially motivated sextortion is a criminal act involving an offender coercing a minor to create and send sexually explicit material. Such offenders threaten to release the sexually explicit materials unless they receive payment, which is often requested in gift cards, mobile payment services, wire transfers or cryptocurrency. These offenders are motivated by financial gain, not necessarily just sexual gratification, according to authorities.

Those approached by offenders are typically males, 14 to 17 years old; however, any child can be a victim, according to officials.

For financially motivated sextortion, offenders are usually located outside the United States.

Sextortion crimes can lead victims to harm themselves and has led to suicide, according to authorities.

From October 2021 to March 2023, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations received more than 13,000 reports of online financial sextortion of minors. The sextortion involved at least 12,600 victims – primarily boys – and led to at least 20 suicides.

From October 2022 to March 2023, the FBI observed at least a 20% increase in reporting of financially motivated sextortion incidents involving minors compared to the same time period the previous year.

“We implore parents, educators, caregivers, and children to learn more about the steps they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones from this deplorable crime, as well as support victims in coming forward,” FBI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs said in a recent news release.

If you or someone you know believes they are a victim of sextortion or financially motivated sextortion, immediately report the activity to law enforcement.

Contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or use the website tips.fbi.gov.