The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) warned of a 10-fold increased sextorion schemes nationwide in the first half of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021.
Authorities received thousands of complaints in that period and indicated that most of the sextortion cases were male and resulted in suicide of more than a dozen.
According to media reports, the stunts were orchestrated mostly out of the United States, especially in Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, where victims aged 14 to 17.
CNN reported that predators usually start communicating with their victims on social networks, through chat and online gaming sites, before swifting conversation to another platform where they mainly use direct messages.
Through deception, predators convince a young person to produce an explicit video or photo, according to the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). HSI is the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
Once predators acquire images, they threaten to release the compromising material unless the victim sends money or gift cards. Often, the predators demand payment through a variety of peer-to-peer payment applications.
In many cases, however, predators release the images even if payments are made. The shame, fear and confusion victims feel when they are caught in this cycle often prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse, according to law enforcement.
Other media outlets indicated that children and teens were contacted by people who used fake female names.
“Shame, fear and confusion victims feel when caught in that circle often prevents them from seeking help or reporting the abuse,” the FBI said.
Christopher Wray, FBI Director, said in a statement there was a “horrific increased financial sextortion reports on minors,” and many of those who suffer from it “are not even included among official numbers.” He also urged relatives and caregivers to act to prevent this crime.