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FBI warns of dramatic rise in 'financial sextortion' incidents

The agencies cautioned that such interactions begin on traditional social media platforms and gaming sites with predators often impersonating female players and targeting younger boys.

Published: December 19, 2022 3:03pm

Updated: December 19, 2022 3:53pm

The FBI, along with Homeland Security Investigations and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, on Monday warned of a consequential rising in the number of children and teens facing coercion to send sexually explicit images for extortion purposes.

"The FBI has seen a horrific increase in reports of financial sextortion schemes targeting minor boys—and the fact is that the many victims who are afraid to come forward are not even included in those numbers," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a press release. "The FBI is here for victims, but we also need parents and caregivers to work with us to prevent this crime before it happens and help children come forward if it does. Victims may feel like there is no way out—it is up to all of us to reassure them that they are not in trouble, there is hope, and they are not alone."

The agencies stated they have received over 7,000 reports in connection to such schemes in the past year alone, and that these incidents have produced at least 3,000 victims, mostly young boys. Moreover, the release stated that more than a dozen suicides had stemmed from these operations.

The agencies cautioned that such interactions begin on traditional social media platforms and gaming sites with predators often impersonating female players and targeting younger boys. They then use these personas to solicit sexual materials and, upon receipt, demand money to prevent their public release.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children CEO Michelle DeLaune said "[t]his is a growing crisis and we've seen sextortion completely devastate children and families... As the leading nonprofit focused on child protection, we've seen first-hand the rise in these cases worldwide. The best defense against this crime is to talk to your children about what to do if they're targeted online. We want everyone to know help is out there and they're not alone."

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