In the wake of an incident involving a University of Hawaii student, experts are calling attention to the growing problem of "sextortion" on Oahu, in which victims are told to hand over a large sum of money or risk sexually explicit images of them being pasted online.
Sources say the UH student, who Hawaii News Now is not naming, befriended a woman on Facebook and the two started messaging each other. That led to video chatting and then to sexual acts.
Shortly afterward, the woman allegedly threatened the student by showing him a recording of the acts and said if he didn’t pay up the video would be exposed. Sources say the woman asked for nearly $3,000 and the student wired money to Western Africa.
Honolulu defense attorney Victor Bakke said he has taken two cases similar to this one in just the last month.
"One of my clients, I caught early and advised him not to make any payments," he said. "The other client on the other hand had already negotiated a payment plan with them to pay several thousand dollars in increments."
Bakke said the suspects target victims with “something to lose.”
“Men who maybe are married, have families, or prominent careers,” said Bakke.
The FBI said people young and old are being victimized.
“Any individual that might have nude images that are shared on the internet can become a victim of these types of crimes," said FBI Special Agent Dr. Arnold Laanui.
Laanui, a cybercrimes expert, said sextortion is far more widespread than many people realize.
“The FBI, over the last two years, has being seeing an increase in juveniles in particular falling victim and prey to these types of crimes," he said. "We've been seeing high school students get involved in it, and in addition to that, we've been seeing a rise of middle schoolers also engaging in sexting behavior."
Laanui said sextortion crimes are usually under-reported because people are so embarrassed.
“It can have long term consequences. Not only on schooling, in potential college admissions, sports teams individuals, employers are looking online…so they go ahead and pay or they do whatever is necessary to stop it," he said.
Laanui said the best way to avoid becoming a victim of sextortion is not to send any explicit videos or pictures of yourself to anyone. If you fall victim to sextortion, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTipLine at 1-800-843-5678 or file a tip online.