COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD)- The FBI office in Columbia is warning parents and caregivers about a nationwide rise of incidents involving the ‘sextortion’ of children over the internet.
Sextortion is defined as a crime in which an adult asks for, pays for, or demands graphic images from a minor.
The FBI reported an increased number of incidents in which an adult poses as an adolescent on social media or online gaming systems and coerces a child to produce and send sexual images or videos. After the material is sent, the predator threatens to post the content online if the victim does not send money.
The most targeted group are males between the age of 14 and 17, according to the agency.
The national Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force reported that half of the children who shared nude images online said they did not care if they knew the recipient in real life and 51% of sextortion victims did not report the incident to family or friends.
“The victims of these crimes may be afraid to come forward, so it’s important to have open discussions with your children about their activities online,” FBI Columbia Special Agent in Charge, Susan Ferensic said. “If you or a family member has been a victim of this crime, reporting may lead to holding a criminal accountable and prevent further victims.”
The FBI encourages adults to share the following tips with children about online safety:
- Be selective about what you share online.
- Be wary of messages coming from strangers online. Pictures and videos are not proof that someone is who they claim to be.
- Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to communicate with them on a different platform.
- Report suspicious online behavior to a trusted adult.
If a young person is being exploited, they are the victim of a crime and should report it. Contact the FBI Columbia field office at (803) 551-4200, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST or Cybertipline.org