Sextortion can start on any site, app, messaging platform, or game where people meet and communicate. In some cases, the first contact from the criminal will be a threat. The person may claim to already have a revealing picture or video of a child that will be shared if the victim does not send more pictures. More often, however, this crime starts when young people believe they are communicating with someone their own age who is interested in a relationship or with someone who is offering something of value.
After the criminals have one or more videos or pictures, they threaten to publish that content, or they threaten violence, to get the victim to produce more images. The shame, fear, and confusion children feel when they are caught in this cycle often prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse. Caregivers and young people should understand how the crime occurs and openly discuss online safety.
The FBI also has recently seen an increase in financial sextortion cases targeting minor victims in the U.S. Financial sextortion is different from traditional sextortion.
In these cases, the offender receives sexually explicit material from the child and then threatens to release the compromising material unless the victim sends money and/or gift cards. The amount requested varies, and the offender often releases the victim’s sexually explicit material regardless of whether or not they receive payment. This increasing threat has resulted in an alarming number of deaths by suicide.
The FBI also has staff dedicated to assisting victims of crime. Learn more about our Victim Services Division and know your rights if you are the victim of sextortion and your images have been posted online.