FBI warns cases of 'sextortion' on the rise
It's called sextortion and it's becoming more and more common in the age of the internet and social media. Sextortion refers to the criminal blackmailing of a victim by demanding something of value, under the threatened release of sensitive data. That data often includes images that are sexual in nature.
Holly Hubert, assistant special agent-in-charge with the Buffalo office of the FBI, says predators often target young people online, luring unsuspecting victims.
"They target kids that are lonely or they meet kids online. Sometimes kids will engage with a stranger online because they think it's fun or funny and then they get hooked in. These types of offenders are master manipulators and they can often talk a kid into taking an inappropriate picture. The young child thinks, 'We'll never see this person again.' And then, all of a sudden, they're being extorted," said Hubert
Hubert says both boys and girl fall prey to sextortion and it is often difficult for them to talk about it with an adult. She says the best way to prevent the crime is through education and parental involvement. She recommends parents have frank conversations with their children on the dangers of the internet at a young age and monitor their online activity, including social media accounts.
Hubert says it is not uncommon for criminals to target dozens, even hundreds, of kids.
"We, usually in this type of case, see multiple victims. It's so easy for an offender to use multiple screen names and have multiple personas on the internet. When they do that, they basically leverage the anonymity of the internet to victimize numerous amounts of kids," Hubert added.
"They manipulate kids into developing a trusting bond. Oftentimes, these predators are 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years old and they adopt personas of 15-year-olds."
Anyone who has been a target of the crime is encouraged contact the local FBI office at (716) 856-7800.