Crime

FBI Boston warns of online sextortion scheme targeting teen boys

FBI Boston says these schemes target boys aged 14 to 17.

Sextortion is a crime FBI Boston Division

FBI Boston is warning parents and caregivers of an increasingly popular online sextortion scheme that targets teen boys.

These sextortion schemes typically involve adults posing as teen girls on social media and coercing teen boys to give them sexual images and videos, only to turn around and attempt to extort money from the boys under the threat that they will release the images or videos, FBI Boston said in a news release.

FBI Boston said it is receiving a growing number of reports from parents and caregivers of this happening to their children.

FBI Boston said these predators can contact teen boys over any online platform used to meet and communicate, including games, apps, or social media sites. It said boys aged 14 to 17 are typically the targets of such schemes.

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Sextortion is a crime, FBI Boston said. The coercion of a child by an adult to produce what is considered child sexual abuse material carries heavy penalties, which can include a sentence of up to life in prison for the offender.

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To make the victimization stop, children typically have to come forward to an adult, usually a parent, teacher, caregiver, or law enforcement, FBI Boston said, but embarrassment over what happened can prevent them from coming forward.

“In order to spare children of the shame, fear, and confusion they feel when this happens, we’re asking parents and caregivers to talk to their children now about their online safety, and the importance of speaking up to prevent further victimization,” Joseph Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division said in the release.

“Meanwhile, the special agents and officers assigned to FBI Boston’s Child Exploitation – Human Trafficking Task Force will do everything they can to unmask these criminals and ensure they face justice for the mental anguish and pain they have imposed on their victims and their families.”

Coming forward is important, FBI Boston said, as sextortion offenders may have hundreds of victims around the world. Coming forward to help law enforcement identify the offender can prevent countless other incidents of sexual exploitation.

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Below are the FBI’s tips for online safety:

  1. Be selective about what information you share about yourself online
  2. Keep your social media accounts private
  3. Be wary of anyone you meet for the first time online
  4. Remember that photos and videos are not proof that someone is who they say they are
  5. Encourage children to report suspicious behavior they encounter online to a trusted adult

If you believe you or someone you know may be a victim of sexploitation, the FBI recommends:

  1. Contacting your local FBI field office, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-the-lost or Cybertipline.org)
  2. Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it
  3. Tell law enforcement everything about the encounters you had online, even if it is embarrassing

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