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FBI reports rise in sextortion cases targeting teens and children

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – The FBI has issued a public safety alert due to the increase in sextortion cases. Sextortion is a serious crime that occurs when a person threatens to send or post your personal, sensitive material if you don’t provide them with sexual images, favors or money.

The FBI reported that more than 3,000 victims were minors in the country last year. Sextortion mainly takes place online through social media or online games. On these platforms, predators convince a teenager or in some cases a child to give them an explicit photo or video. After this, the criminal threatens to release those photos or videos of the victim unless they receive money or more photos.

In many cases in 2022, the FBI reported that girls were originally targeted, but now it’s mostly boys. “We are now seeing predators who may still be male take on the persona of a young woman and then target young boys, so we have seen a shift in this financial sextortion from girls only to more boys. Some are as young as 10 years old old,” said Kevin Smith, an agent with the FBI’s Public Affairs Office in Phoenix.

One of the concerns the FBI sees is that these victims are having a hard time coming forward because they are scared, embarrassed and humiliated. Experts insist it’s important to look for changes in your child’s behavior, such as increased signs of anxiety. While they know that sextortion conversations can be uncomfortable for you or your child, it’s best to be honest with them about this danger they may face online.

“You can say, ‘Hey kid, I saw this thing on the news today. Something’s up… has anything ever happened to you? Has anyone ever tried something like this? ‘” Michael Klinker, a social worker in Phoenix, said. “Talk about it openly from there. Talk about what people were doing. So also make sure you talk about it as a family and why it’s not okay to do that kind of sending pictures over the internet.”

If young people notice that they are being exploited, they are the victims of a crime and must report it. Contact your local FBI field office, call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has outlined steps parents and youth can take if they or their child is a victim of sextortion, including:

  • Remember the predator is to blame, not your child or you.
  • Seek help before deciding to pay money or otherwise obey the predator. Cooperating or paying rarely stops the blackmail and constant harassment.
  • Report the predator account through the platform’s safety feature.
  • Block the predator and don’t delete the profile or messages as that can be helpful to law enforcement in identifying and stopping it.
  • Let NCMEC help you get explicit images of you from the internet.
  • Visit to learn how to notify companies yourself or visit to report to us for help with the process.
  • If you are a young person, ask for help. This can be a very complex problem and may require help from adults or law enforcement.
  • If you don’t feel like you have adults in your corner, contact NCMEC for support at or call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST.
  • If you are a parent, take some time to learn how sextortion works and how to talk about it with your children.
  • Information, resources, and conversation guides are available at