Teen boys increasingly targeted in sextortion schemes, FBI warns

Like many online crimes involving teens, it often begins on social media.
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 5:23 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2023 at 8:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The FBI Honolulu Office said the number of sextortion cases spiked during the pandemic, especially those involving young male victims.

The boys are often catfished into thinking they’re sending suggestive pictures to someone else their age.

Instead, the criminals threaten to distribute those pictures, unless they’re paid.

Special Agent Sherwin Chang said the financial sextortion of boys is expanding and has cost thousands of dollars for some victims. There have also been suicides connected to the crimes.

Many victims “can’t or won’t talk to their parents, you know, a trusted teacher, a coach, a friend, somebody that they can speak to to kind of get the word out that this has happened to them,” Chang said.

He added it’s important for the child to come forward quickly to prevent further damage.

While the financial sextortion of boys is more recent, for years, girls have been victims of a different kind of sextortion.

Chang said the motive in those cases is not money; rather, the criminal demands more inappropriate photos or videos.

Girls as young as 10 years old have been targeted.

Like many online crimes involving teens, it often begins on social media.

“Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Omegle, Kik, are where they’ve befriended them online,” Chang said, adding parents need to be aware of the apps their teens are using.

And parents need to be sympathetic and understand how difficult it is for a child who comes forward, he said.

Once that happens, Chang said the adults need to notify law enforcement as soon as possible. And, he said, never give in to the demands ― whether it’s more inappropriate pictures or money.

“It’s $800 today. Tomorrow, it’s gonna be $1,200. The day after that, it’s gonna be $1,500,” Chang said.

For girls, Chang advised blocking the person right away. But in all sextortion cases, do not get rid of the evidence.

“Don’t delete the text messages, the chats,” he said.

Tracking down the criminal is not easy. Many of them are based in Nigeria, the Philippines and India.

The FBI said sextortion cases go up when kids are home on break, when they spend more time on social media.