FBI warns parents against sextortion scams targeting kids

Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 6:22 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - You probably hear a lot about scams targeting you or older adults.

But the FBI is warning parents about sextortion scams targeting their kids.

The FBI says in Georgia, cases like these doubled from 21 last year to 50 through 6 months of 2022.

How much of an issue is this for here at home?

Since October 2020, the Child Enrichment Center says there have been 21 confirmed cases of sexual exploitation of children in Richmond County alone. The FBI says sextortion can reach anyone, and the main form of recruitment is with your cell phone.

“Once it’s out there, it’s out there you can’t bring it back,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Charles Kicklighter, with the GBI Cyber Crime Center.

Kicklighter says just one click on your cell phone can introduce your child into a different world.

“These apps like Snapchat and Instagram and TikTok steal pictures of other teenagers and portray themselves as teens to gain friendship and start a relationship with other children,” he said.

The FBI says it’s seeing an increase in reports of adults posing as young girls preying on teenage boys through social media for pictures and then threatening to post the photos unless the victim gives them money.

Kicklighter says this crime can carry a life sentence in prison.

“I’ve worked cases when I’ve had children ages seven or eight with that were online and were asked to send a video in which a child doesn’t know the seriousness,” said Kicklighter.

Signs your child might be a victim could be distancing themselves from people, spending more time on their cell phone, being secretive, and especially having unexplained money or new items.

“It’s becoming a money-making business,” he said.

Kicklighter says many cases go unreported because of shame and embarrassment.

If you feel your child might be a victim of sextortion, the GBI says not to delete the chats or contacts on their phones. Investigators will want to see the phone, which can often be a road map to the person threatening your child.

“There’s no telling how many people have become victims that don’t report it,” he said.

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