Saprea, FBI Offer Tips to Reduce the Risk of Sextortion
Boy meets girl online. Boy and girl quickly become friends, texting back and forth via a social media app. That’s where the story takes a dark turn. The girl is actually a man texting from the Ivory Coast of Africa. The “girl” already has sexually explicit photos of the boy and says “she” will make the photos public if he does not pay $5,000.
While intimate images are the most well-known type of blackmail, sextortionists can use other leverage against the victim, like the threat to share a screenshot of an intimate conversation, a video from the victim’s webcam, or private information about the victim’s sexuality. According to the FBI, sextortion is an online crime that exploits youth through coercion or blackmail to acquire sexual content, engage in sex, or obtain money.
June is Internet Safety Month, a month when awareness is raised about internet safety and keeping children safe online. Sextortion is the focus of this year’s observance, and Saprea wants to provide parents with prevention tips to keep their children safe online.
According to the FBI and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children the number of reports involving sextortion has increased dramatically, more than doubling between 2019 and 2021. And in the year 2022, the Homeland Security Investigations received more than 3,000 sextortion tips, though the amount of individual cases depicted by this number is unknown.
“Sextortion is a crime that attempts to isolate victims through feelings of shame, helplessness, and terror,” said Saprea Managing Director Chris Yadon. “Protecting against sextortion starts with understanding the threat.
Yadon suggests five things parents can do to reduce the risk of sextortion:
- Assess risky situations and practice navigating them.
- Teach children how to set and respect health boundaries.
- Keep the lines of communication open.
- Discuss sexual development and healthy intimacy.
- Model and develop emotional well-being.
“Perhaps the best defense for parents is to begin conversations today with their children about this issue and arm them with the information they need so they aren’t targeted online,” Yadon said.
The FBI asks parents and children to follow these important steps:
- Be suspicious if someone you meet on a game or an app asks you to start communicating with them on a different platform.
- Never send compromising images of yourself to anyone no matter who they say they are.
- Don’t open attachments from people you don’t actually know.
- Do not delete any of the communications, and immediately contact local law enforcement.
For those who have already been sextorted, the FBI invites them to call their local law enforcement or the bureau’s tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at tips.fbi.gov.