The world today is filled with new technology, some of which we would never have dreamed about even 10 years ago. Even though some of this technology is quite amazing and makes life easier and more convenient, it also presents new dangers, especially to our young people.
The FBI has started a campaign focused on warning youth – and parents – of a relatively new crime called “sextortion.” The theme of the campaign is designed to help us understand that a sexual predator can victimize children or teens in their own homes through the devices they use for gaming, homework, and communicating with friends.”
Sextortion begins when a predator reaches out to a young person over a game, app, or social media account. Through deception, manipulation, money and gifts, or threats, the predator convinces the young person to produce an explicit video or image. When the young person starts to resist requests to make more images, the criminal will use threats of harm or exposure of the early images to pressure the child to continue producing content.
“These predators are really good at targeting youth,” a spokesman for the FBI has stated. A case this year involved a criminal who offered money in exchange for explicit images from teens. Fortunately, that man was found and sentenced to 18 years in prison for his crimes.
Unfortunately, there are thousands more bad people out there lurking in cyberspace.
The FBI’s Stop Sextortion campaign seeks to inform students of the crime, so they know how to avoid risky situations online and know to ask for help if they are being victimized.
If this is happening to you, your child or any other loved one, reach out to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or report the crime online at tips.fbi.gov. FBI agents see these cases a lot and have helped thousands of young people. The goals are to stop the harassment, arrest the person behind the crime, and help you get the support you need. They will do all they can to keep your identity anonymous.
In the meantime, know that together we can work to shut down these criminals. Awareness and sensible safety practices online, along with a willingness to ask for help, can put an end to this exploitation. The FBI agents who work on these cases want you to know these six things:
- Be selective about what you share online. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you.
- Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
- Be aware 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. Images can be altered or stolen.
- Be suspicious if you meet someone on one game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
- Be in the know. Any content you create online—whether it is a text message, photo, or video—can be made public. And once you send something, you don’t have any control over where it goes next.
- Be willing to ask for help. If you are getting messages or requests online that don’t seem right, block the sender, report the behavior to the site administrator, or go to an adult. If you have been victimized online, tell someone.
The family of attorneys at Tauber Law Offices have their own children, and we join the FBI and others to create new awareness of the people out there who aim to exploit and put our young people in danger.