CRIME

FBI warns about spike in financial sextortion crimes against youth

Feb 8, 2023, 1:25 PM | Updated: 1:29 pm

SALT LAKE CITYThe FBI is putting out a warning to families as they’re seeing criminals have found a new target in our youth. The result is an explosion of financial sextortion among kids around the world. 

It’s a worldwide problem, and Utah is not exempt. FBI Special Agent Curtis Cox said about a dozen leads or referrals make their way into their offices every week. He said these criminals will pose as somebody online who is attractive to these kids.

In almost every instance they’ve seen recently, the victims are teenage boys.

Cox said these crimes often follow a pattern. Young boys are contacted by someone posing as a girl 14 years old or younger. From there, a chat follows and a relationship is built. Then, the request for compromising images come, and with that, extortions for money. 

He said once those photos are out there, it is almost impossible to pull back. 

So as parents, what happens upon learning a child or teen has engaged with a criminal unknowingly and already pressed send?

“Report this to law enforcement. Preserve whatever you can so that law enforcement has something to investigate — whether that’s a username, the chats, the logs that they are able to see,” Cox said. “I know a lot of people in that instant, they just want to block and delete whatever has happened, but that’s what hampers us, right? We need to be able to look at something and investigate something.”

There’s a website called IC3.gov, where referrals will be directed to a local FBI office and go to their desks directly, Cox said.

Cox said if it is a local criminal or someone within the United States, there is something that can be done. Unfortunately, he does say a lot of these criminals are outside the U.S., but with FBI offices worldwide, it is possible they can assist in those situations. 

He said do not ever pay or send money. In a lot of cases, he said the requests for money will start small and may seem it is not a big deal. However, he said that will constantly and always escalate, and at the end of the day, these criminals are seeking money.

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FBI warns about spike in financial sextortion crimes against youth