The FBI’s Alaska field office said that there has been an increase of “sextortion attempts” of adults coercing minors online within Alaska.
The FBI said that the adults are attempting to meet children through video games, apps, and social media, and by using deception, manipulation, money, gifts and threats, criminals are demanding sexually explicit video and images.
Following an increase of sextortion attempts in Alaska, the FBI issued the following tips for parents:
- An adult has committed a crime as soon as they ask a minor for a single graphic image. Sextortion is a crime because it is illegal and wrong for an adult to ask for, pay for, or demand graphic images from a minor.
- The victim is not the one who is breaking the law. This situation can feel confusing, and criminals count on victims feeling too unsure, scared, or embarrassed to tell someone. Even if this started on an app or site they are too young to be on. Even if they felt okay about making some of the content. Even if they accepted money or a game credit or something else, the victim is not the one in trouble.
- Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
- Be suspicious if you meet someone on one game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
- Be selective about what you share online, especially your personal information and passwords. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, it is possible to learn a lot of information about you.
- Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof a person is who they claim to be.
- Any content you create online—whether it’s a text message, photo, or video—can be made public. Once you send content, you don’t have any control over where it goes next.
- Be willing to ask for help. If you are getting messages or requests that don’t seem right, block the sender and report the behavior.
In November, the FBI detailed a case in Florida involving a 13-year-old girl who met someone through a social media app. While the girl was thinking she was talking to another 13-year-old, she was actually talking to a 30-year-old man in another state.
Thankfully, the young teen realized something was amiss, but not before sending photos of herself in a long t-shirt. The 30-year-old man, according to the FBI, threatened to send the photo to the girl’s entire contact list as the demands became more extreme.
“They are quick to let people in when they think they know who it is. It’s very important to know who it is,” the girl's mom, whose identity the FBI is protecting, said. “And if that conversation ever gets uncomfortable, just like we teach them when they are little about stranger danger and how to handle somebody if they start having an inappropriate conversation or touch you in a wrong way. If someone—even if you think you know who they are—if they are talking to you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, that’s something you’ve got to be aware of.”