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Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and several federal law enforcement agencies issued a public safety alert citing an “alarming increase” in online exploitation of children and teens.
This crime is called “sextortion”, from “sex” and “blackmail”, when the victim “usually a child” is threatened or blackmailed, usually online, asking for sexual content (photos/videos) or Money man against the will of the child,” the Justice Department explained.
Last month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, in partnership with Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), issued a public safety alert, citing an “alarming increase” in sextortion cases middle.
On Tuesday, Moody’s issued a public safety alert urging parents and guardians to “please talk to your children about this disturbing crime and make sure they know not to take or send explicit photos to anyone. Be with your children Keep the dialogue open and urge them to tell you if they are asked to exchange inappropriate content.”
The US Department of Justice reported that approximately 3,000 minors were victims of sextortion in the US last year.
Sextortion occurs “when a child or teen shares a picture with someone they think they know or trust, but that person has gained the child’s trust through deceit, coercion, or deceit (sometimes, predators falsely claim that they have gained the child’s The photos may have been shared with others). Once predators have access to these images, they threaten to publish harmful material unless the victim sends additional images, money or gift cards,” the DOJ explained.
Typically, predators demand payment through various apps, but after receiving the money, they post the images.
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“The shame, fear and confusion victims experience when caught in this cycle often prevents them from seeking help or reporting abuse,” the Justice Department said.
Sextortion schemes are run online using social media and gaming sites or video chat apps. The DOJ explained that predators are increasingly creating fake female accounts to target teenage boys ages 14 to 17, though it has found victims as young as 10.
The Department of Justice has announced resource Help Americans recognize and report online exploitation and sextortion.
The 2022 Human Trafficking Summit in Florida also hosts a session on sextortion, offering additional information.
During the summit, the Florida Department of Children and Families encouraged parents and guardians to consider several precautions. They include understanding children’s online activity; requiring them to keep their social media accounts private; preventing them from changing or using false dates of birth to access online sites; explaining that other people’s online profiles may be fake, among others.
Last year, Moody’s office released a Online Safety Toolkit Help educate parents and guardians about how traffickers use the internet. It also includes tips on how to create an effective online safety plan to use the internet safely.
Parents who believe their child may be the target of a potential predator are encouraged to call the NCMEC CyberTipline (1-800-843-5678) and file a report with their local FBI field office (1-800-Call-FBI; Tips.FBI.gov website).
NCMEC reminds parents, “Remember, the predator is the culprit, not your child or you.”
It also advises victims to “seek help before deciding whether to pay or otherwise submit to a predator. Cooperation or payment rarely stops blackmail and ongoing harassment.”
They are also encouraged to report the account of a suspected predator and block it. But they were instructed not to delete profiles or messages that could be used by law enforcement.
NCMEC also helps victims remove explicit images from the internet, it said.
Children and youth who feel unsafe to tell adults about falling victim to a sextortion scheme are encouraged to contact NCMEC directly ([email protected]; 1-800-THE-LOST).
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.