What the Tech: Beware of ‘sextortion scams’

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 6:14 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The FBI is warning teenagers and their parents that scammers are targeting young boys by posing as girls and offering to exchange nude photos.

Sextortion scams have been on the rise for several years, and the FBI says it’s discovered that many of the perpetrators are targeting boys aged 14-17.

Sextortion scams are scary because they can happen right under the noses of parents when the teenager is in the same room with them or in their own bedroom with a phone or computer.

The scams are often successful because the victims are too embarrassed and scared to tell someone.

Here’s how these sextortion scams work: The victim meets someone online over social media or while playing video games with other players.

In recent cases, a girl begins sending flirty messages to the teenage boy and eventually offers to exchange nude photos of themselves. But the girl on the other end of the chat isn’t a girl at all, it is a scammer posing as a girl.

The nude photo they send is one they’ve found online or has been shared with them before by another victim

If the teenage boy sends a nude photo of themselves, the scammer then threatens to share the photo with the victim’s friends and family over social media.

To prevent that from happening, the scammer insists the victim sends money using a payment app.

Frequently, the victim is embarrassed and scared and chooses to pay the amount rather than report the incident to someone.

The FBI says even if the victim sends money, the scammer will insist they send more money or the photo will be sent to their friends.

In 2021 the FBI reports it received over 18,000 sextortion complaints with losses totaling over $13.6 million.

Those are just the claims reported to the FBI. It’s believed tens of thousands more victims never report the incidents. The FBI shares these tips to protect your children online:

  • Be selective about what you share online.
  • Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online and block or ignore messages from strangers.
  • Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone even if they share a photo of themselves.
  • Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start chatting on a different platform.

Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult. You should report any incidents online via www.tips.fbi.gov or contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, at 1-800-thelost, or www.cybertipline.org

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