Authorities say the criminals talk their way into obtaining explicit photos and demand money to keep the sexual pictures private (Chuck Goudie/ABC 7 Chicago I-Team). YouTube Tips ⓘ
FBI-Chicago has identified an alarming increase in reported sextortion incidents in Northern Illinois. In February 2023, the FBI’s National Press Office in Washington D.C. issued a joint press release with international partners describing a dramatic increase in financial sextortion reports targeting teenage and young boys.
The FBI said many sextortionists operate from Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and the Philippines.
The reason for the Midwest spike in sextortion.
Special Agent Heather Czubak heads the Chicago Squad assigned to sextortion investigations.
— Chuck Goudie/ABC 7 Chicago
International partners resources include …
FBINational Center for Missing and Exploited Children: Take It Down Program
Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation
Canadian Centre for Child Protection
RCMP: National Child Exploitation Crime Centre
Public Safety Canada
Toronto Police Service
Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team
New Zealand Police
National Crime Agency’s CEOP Education (United Kingdom)
Numbers are rising exponentially nationally and even faster in Chicago.
Nationwide, the FBI recorded a 463% increase in sextortion complaints from 2021 to 2022. In Chicago, the FBI recorded a 539% increase during that same time period.
Between Jan to Feb. 2022 and Jan. to Feb. 2023, nationwide there was a 322% increase in sextortion complaints. In Chicago, there was a 383% increase in complaints during that same time.
Reported numbers do not always tell the whole story. Many victims feel shame and do not file reports. Actual sextortion case numbers could be much higher.
Types of victims, criminal motives, and perpetrator locations have now changed.
Traditional sextortion typically targets young women and girls for the purposes of obtaining sexual content. The current jump in sextortion reports is related to a new version: financial sextortion.
Targets of financial sextortion tend to be young men and boys.
Typically, victims are aged 10 to 17, but victims can be any age (and have been noted as young as 7). Rather than sexual gratification, motivation appears to be largely financial.
In a financial sextortion, a stranger reaches out to a victim online via game or app. They often impersonate attractive women or pretend to be of the same age as the victim. The stranger may attempt to move the victim off of the original platform onto another communication app before asking for nude or compromising photos or videos. Once a victim has sent a photo or video, the stranger will then demand that the victim pay and threaten to release the photos/videos.
Financial sextortion can cause severe emotional distress and can lead to depression or suicide in children.
Compared to traditional sextortion, perpetrators of financial sextortion tend to be located internationally (often in Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, and the Philippines).
What can parents do? If your child is targeted:
Tell them they are not in trouble, they are not alone, and there is life after pictures.
Remember, the predator is to blame, not your child or you.
Report the predator’s account via the platform’s safety feature.
Block the predator and do not delete the profile or messages because that can be more helpful to law enforcement in identifying and stopping them.
Ask for help from a trusted adult or law enforcement before sending money or more images. Cooperating rarely stops the blackmail and harassment, but law enforcement can.
Call 1-800-CALL-FBI or visit tips.fbi.gov to report it.
The FBI offers the Safe Online Surfing program to children in grades 3 through 8. Available in English and Spanish, the program teaches children about online safety through an age-appropriate video game. Kids can play at home or teachers can sign up their classes to play for free. Every month, the school with the highest percentage of participants can earn a visit from the FBI.
FBI FAQs and Press releases: “HOW WE CAN HELP YOU”