Thousands of teenage boys across the country have become victims of financial sextortion. It happens when an adult contacts a minor over an online platform such as a game, app, or social media account.
The predators pretend to be girls and ask the young males to engage in explicit activity on video or in a photo. Then the adults will ask for hundreds of dollars or they’ll expose the victims by posting the sexual act online.
The problem has been ongoing. As CBN News reported in March 2022, the FBI warned parents about the rise in cases where sexual predators were pressuring teenage boys to share explicit images of themselves.
Last January, the FBI said there had been more than 7,000 reports related to the online sextortion of minors, resulting in at least 3,000 victims, primarily boys. More than a dozen sextortion victims were reported to have died by suicide.
“The FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and our law enforcement partners implore parents and caregivers to engage with their kids about sextortion schemes so we can prevent them in the first place,” the agency said at the time.
However, the problem of online sextortion has only increased.
Lauren Coffren, executive director of the Exploited Children Division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) recently told The Washington Post that the number of sextortion cases targeting young people “has exploded in the past couple of years.”
Coffen said teenage boys are being specifically targeted.
“They’re using shame, embarrassment, and fear, and they’re tapping into that,” she told the outlet. “They’re exploiting children’s worst nightmares.”
The NCMEC said by the end of July of this year, it already had received more than 12,500 reports of financial sextortion from minors, the public, and from online service providers, including Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, according to The Washington Post.
The NCMEC also said it has seen a dramatic increase in sextortion cases being reported to its CyberTipline. The nonprofit organization has also posted a What to Do list of steps if a minor has been approached online.
The FBI reminds parents if young people are being exploited, they are the victim of a crime and should report it. Contact your local FBI field office at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at tips.fbi.gov.
The FBI also has staff dedicated to assisting victims of crime. Learn more about its Victim Services Division and know your rights if you are the victim of sextortion and your images have been posted online.
Last year, financial sextortion made news around the world when 17-year-old Jordan DeMay committed suicide after being targeted by online predators in West Africa, according to The Washington Post. Three men from Nigeria are now facing charges with two of them having been extradited to the U.S., the outlet reported.
DeMay’s parents have said they want to warn other parents with their son’s story.
“Our family has forever been changed by this heinous crime, and our objective is to prevent another individual from being victimized,” Jennifer Buta and John DeMay said in a statement. “Kids, teenagers, young adults, and even adults can be a target of sextortion. We urge you to have discussions about this and have a plan for your children to reach out if it does happen to them.”