Internet blackmailers are increasingly deceiving today’s youth into sending them sexually explicit photos and videos by posing as close-in-age peers or love interests on social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, or gaming apps. This scheme is known as “sextortion”, and it is a serious crime. In a common variation of the scheme, an adult poses as a young girl and contacts boys online. The perpetrator convinces the youth to send sexually explicit images of himself. They threaten to release the images and videos unless they are paid. They may even threaten the safety of the youth’s family. The Nebraska State Patrol and the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office are joining forces to encourage parents to keep an eye out for warning signs of sextortion.
Perpetrators often approach children through social media before moving to more private messaging and video apps. Conversations start out friendly. The perpetrator may offer expressions of appreciation, praise, or a willingness to listen at any hour. The goal is to establish a secret or special relationship the child values and protects. As the relationship develops and boundaries are tested, the predator begins to ask for sexually explicit images and/or videos of the child. Once the child shares images and videos, the predator has another form of control. The predator threatens to share the images with parents or friends to force the child to provide more of the same or money.
Common coercion tactics used by sextortion predators include:
Establishing a friendship/romantic relationship to develop a bond
Offering something of value in exchange for sexually explicit content
Reciprocation, i.e., “I’ll show you, if you show me”
Secretly recording sexually explicit videos of the child or the child’s family members
Threatening to hurt or sexually assault the child or the child’s family members
Threatening to post sexually explicit photos and/or conversations with the child online
Parents or guardians of child victims should report sextortion to the Omaha FBI at 402-493-8688 or call National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-843-5678.
Additional information on sextortion can be found on the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office website
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