PHILADELPHIA - FBI Philadelphia is warning parents to be extra cautious after a reported increase in sextortion incidents in the area.
"Sextortion begins when an adult contacts a minor over any online platform used to meet and communicate, such as a game, app, or social media account," FBI Philadelphia says.
A recent scheme is targeting boys, usually ages 14 to 17, according to the FBI. In this scheme, officials say the predator poses as a young girl to convince boys to engage in an explicit activity in a secretly recorded video. The predator then allegedly tries to extort the victims by demanding money or more images, and threatening to post the recording online.
Young girls are also said to be targets of similar schemes.
"To be clear: sextortion is a crime," says FBI Philadelphia.
- Police: Man, 20, fatally shot in Kensington
- Woman dies after being shot twice in chest in Northeast Philadelphia, police say
- Police: Man, 66, stabbed in neck, chest during robbery in Kensington
An adult who produces child sexual abuse materials by coercing a child could face life in prison.
"The embarrassment children feel from the activity they were forced to engage in is what typically prevents them from coming forward," the FBI said. "Know that sextortion offenders may have hundreds of victims around the world, so coming forward to help law enforcement identify the offender may prevent further sexual exploitation of that victim and others."
FBI Philadelphia is asking adults to discuss these topics with their kids, and to remember these tips to stay safe:
- Be selective about what you share online, especially your personal information and passwords. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to learn a lot of useful information about you.
- Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
- Remember that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
- Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
- Report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:
- Contact your local FBI field office, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-THE-LOST or CyberTipline.org).
- Don’t delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
- Tell law enforcement everything about the encounters you had online; it may be embarrassing, but the details can be a big help as we work to find the offender.
For more information on sextortion and resources for parents and caregivers, visit FBI Philadelphia's website.