The FBI Pittsburgh Field Office has issued a warning about increased sextortion incidents. The government agency has said that predators have been targeting young males in a sextortion scheme involving adults posing as age-appropriate females swindling teenagers, mainly between 14 and 17 years old. This particular scheme involves predators encouraging boys to share provocative videos and images and includes blackmailing them for money afterward. In addition, cybercriminals threaten to release the imagery to friends and family if the victim refuses to cooperate.

Social media, games, and apps all have instant messaging features that essentially are hunting grounds for child predators. Bad actors from all over the world scout for potential victims and use deception and manipulation to convince young teenagers to create explicit materials. Unfortunately, the lockdowns over the last two years have made the job of child predators easier as teenagers end up spending more time on phones, tablets, and gaming.

Parents and caregivers have to look for suspicious behavior and report it to the authorities. Many antivirus solutions offer ways to stay on top of your children’s online behavior. Law enforcement is actively encouraging teenagers and parents to report possible child predators. Unfortunately, in many cases, teenagers are so embarrassed that they pay the predators and the crimes go unreported. However, this is precisely what criminals want so they can move on to the next victim.

Parental Control

Parents should ask questions and get involved when their teenage child shows signs of distress, i.e., requests for money but cannot explain the purpose and shows signs of depression or nervousness. Last month, a 17-year-old teenager from Michigan killed himself a few hours after blackmailers threatened to release a naked picture. Sextortion is a crime, and educating children about cyber predators is strongly advisable.

FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall stated that these are not the traditional child predators who are just out for explicit images. Instead, he said they’re very much money-driven, and the FBI wants parents and caregivers to discuss schemes like this. Law enforcement agencies wish kids and parents to know that if someone they’ve met online starts asking for provocative images or behavior, and eventually money, that person should be reported.

If you believe that your child might be in trouble or is a potential predator victim, you are advised to contact a local FBI field office. FBI wanted to clarify that imagery, videos, and texts should not be deleted before the authorities review them. Even though teenagers, and even adults, may find talking about those types of incidents embarrassing, the only way to prevent predators from continuing to do what they do, is to cooperate with law enforcement and provide as much evidence as possible. The more evidence authorities have, the more likely it is for them to identify and prosecute the perpetrator, thus preventing the criminal from causing any further damage.