ST. GEORGE — The FBI is warning the public about an increase in the crime known as “sextortion,” when suspects target minors and threaten or coerce them into sending sexually explicit videos and images online.

Offenders then threaten to release the content unless the victim produces more.

Financially motivated sextortion follows a similar pattern, but ultimately offenders are looking for financial gain.

Special Agent Curtis Cox in the FBI’s Salt Lake City office said they receive dozens of calls a month.

“These cases typically involve young male victims between the age of 13 to 17 — and we see some younger than that, actually — and so, we’re really just trying to get the word out,” Cox said. “Obviously, awareness is key here. We want kids to know what sorts of dangers they face online. We want them to know what resources are available to them.”

This file photo shows the FBI Salt Lake City office, Salt Lake City, Utah, date not specified| Photo courtesy of, St. George News

Cox said in the six months from October 2022 to March 2023, the FBI saw a 20% increase in the reporting of financially motivated sextortion cases.

If you or someone you know believes they’re a victim of this kind of crime, contact law enforcement immediately. You can report it to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or online at this website.

Cox said as young people live their lives online, some fall victim to these scams — typically on Instagram or Snapchat.

He said the scammers, who pretend to be teenage girls, approach young men. The scammer will send a sexually explicit photo and solicit one in return — which is then used to demand money from the victim.

“With threats that if the money’s not paid, they’re going to send those pictures to social media contacts – their friends, their family, to others in the kid’s orbit,” Cox said. “And obviously, that fear of being exposed that way causes these kids to panic.”

Cox said trying to make payments doesn’t solve the problem – and can exacerbate it.

He adds the resulting anxiety can lead people who’ve been scammed to self-harm or thoughts of suicide. But he said there are resources to help.

And he urged parents to not judge or be angry at their teen, but to view them as a victim who needs help and support.

Written by ALEX GONZALEZ, producer for the Public News Service.

Read the original article here.

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