A new and distressing cybercrime known as online sextortion is increasingly targeting teenagers. This crime involves malicious individuals who disguise themselves online to coerce young people into sending explicit images or videos. The aftermath involves a demand for money, with the threat of sharing these images with the victim’s family and friends if they do not comply.

How Sextortion Happens:
Sextortion schemes can unfold quickly, often in less than a few minutes. Malicious individuals target their victims through various online channels, including social media, online gaming platforms, and video chat applications. They meticulously craft their online presence to seem approachable and trustworthy, often masquerading as peers or a potential romantic partner with similar interests or backgrounds to lure in their targets.

Identifying the Predators:
These criminals frequently operate from outside the United States, with many based in countries across West Africa and Southeast Asia. They often pose as teenage girls, creating profiles that, while seemingly genuine at first glance, often have very few followers and appear relatively new. In more deceptive tactics, these individuals may compromise or impersonate accounts of people known to their victims, making their traps seem more convincing.

The Exploitation Process:
Upon establishing a connection, these perpetrators quickly move conversations to platforms that support video calls. In these interactions, they manipulate or deceive victims into producing and sending explicit material, capturing it without their knowledge. The extortion begins immediately, with threats to release the content unless a ransom is paid, often demanding payment through gift cards, digital wallets, or cryptocurrencies. Unfortunately, even if victims comply, there’s no guarantee the images won’t be shared.

Breaking the Silence:
The burden of shame and fear can make it incredibly challenging for victims to seek help. However, it’s crucial to overcome this barrier. Organizations like the FBI offer dedicated support to those affected by such crimes, emphasizing that victims are not alone and that resources are available to help them navigate these troubling situations.

Prevention and Action:
Awareness and education are vital in combating online sextortion. Both teens and parents must be vigilant about the dangers posed by online predators. Recognizing the tactics used by these criminals and knowing the steps to take if targeted is essential. Immediate action, including contacting trusted adults or law enforcement, can significantly help prevent further exploitation.

Contact your local FBI field office, call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at tips.fbi.gov if you think you, your child, or someone you know is being exploited.


Stay safe and stay informed!

Chapman University Information Systems and Technology (IS&T)