COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO)– FBI Columbia is warning parents and guardians about a nationwide rise in sextortion incidents involving children on the internet. FBI agents say they have received an increasing number of reports of adults posing as adolescents on social media and online gaming systems to coerce children to take sexually explicit photos and videos along with extorting money from them. After receiving these images and videos, investigators say the predator will threaten to post them online unless the victim sends them money.
The FBI says they believe cases of sextortion might be underreported because the victims are afraid of the consequences the predator threatened or how their parents will react.
“The victims of these crimes may be afraid to come forward, so it’s important to have open discussions with your children about their activities online,” said FBI Columbia Special Agent in Charge, Susan Ferensic. “If you or a family member has been a victim of this crime, reporting may lead to holding a criminal accountable and prevent further victims.”
The FBI provides the following tips to help keep your kids safe online:
- Be selective with what you share online
- Be wary of anyone you encounter on the internet for the first time and block messages from strangers
- Be aware that anyone can pretend to be anything online
- Be suspicious if someone you encounter on a gaming platform or app wants to communicate on a different platform
- Children should report any suspicious behavior to a trusted adult
Sextortion is a crime for which officials say offenders can face up to life in prison. If someone you know is a victim of sextortion, call the FBI Columbia field office at 803-551-4200 or go online to www.ic3.gov.