During National Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention month, the FBI is alerting parents, guardians, educators, and teens of an increase in sextortion crimes, locally and nationwide, specifically targeting teenage males between the ages of 14 to 17. The FBI Richmond Field Office and our colleagues across the country are raising the awareness of this crime and providing prevention tips and information for victim reporting.

What is sextortion? It’s a crime! It’s the coercion of a child by an adult to produce Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), and it can result in a life sentence for the offending adult.

In this scheme, it begins with the predator posing as a young girl on social media; and through deception and manipulation convinces a young male to engage in explicit sexual activity over video. This video is secretly recorded and saved by the predator, who later reveals its existence and uses this CSAM to extort money, bank account information, or gift cards from the victim by threatening its release on various social media pages

While the thought of coming forward to report these crimes to a trusted adult or the authorities may initially seem overwhelming and embarrassing, we assure victims and their families that our goals are to end their victimization, prevent others from being victimized, and hold these predators accountable. Our investigative team includes FBI Victim Specialists who help victims, and their families understand and navigate the criminal justice system and coordinate appropriate services and resources.

The following tips may help protect you and your children online:

  • Consider restricting social media accounts.
    • If social media accounts are open, a predator may be able to connect snippets of personal information to eventually obtain significant material for their use.
  • Be sensitive to the information you share online, especially personal information and passwords.
  • Remember anyone, predators included, can pretend to be anything or anyone online.
    • Be cautious of those you encounter initially.
    • Videos and photos should never be considered proof of identity.
    • Block or ignore messages from strangers.
    • Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and you’re asked to switch to a different platform.
  • Encourage all children to report suspicious or uncomfortable behavior to a trusted adult.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sextortion:

  • Do not forward the material to anyone else, including parents and guardians.
    • Forwarding this CSAM could compound the issue.
  • Do not delete anything before law enforcement has had an opportunity to forensically review it.
  • When speaking with law enforcement about these online encounters, be honest and open.
    • Investigators are trained and compassionate individuals, and the information you provide assists us in locating these predators.
  • Make a report:

Be on the lookout for these “Pinwheels for Prevention” throughout RVA. They are a national symbol, obtained by Greater Richmond SCAN, aimed at raising awareness of child abuse prevention efforts. Affixed to these pinwheels are codes that link to various pages from the FBI’s webpage, linking to relevant information that raises awareness of the FBI’s effort to address Sextortion.

For schools, Parent/Teacher Organizations, or any other entity that would like a presentation on this material to help raise awareness and prevent future victimization of our youth, please send your request to our Community Outreach Specialist.