The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) warns about a large increase in the number of sextortion complaints. Sextortion occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if their demands are not met. Oftentimes, the fraudster demands additional sexual images, sexual favors, or money, creating financial and emotional distress for the victim.
As of July 31, 2021, the FBI IC3 has received over 16,000 sextortion complaints in 2021, with losses exceeding $8 million. Nearly half of these extortion victims were in the 20-39 age group. Victims over 60 years comprised the third largest reporting age group, while victims under the age of 20 reported the fewest number of complaints.
Most victims report the initial contact with the fraudster is mutual and made using dating websites and apps. Soon after the encounter, the fraudster requests the interaction be moved from the website or app to another messaging platform. The fraudster instigates the exchange of sexually explicit material and then encourages the victim to participate via video chat or send their own explicit photos. Immediately after the victim complies, the fraudster blackmails the victim and demands money to prevent the release of the photos or videos on social media. The fraudster often gains access to the victim’s social media or contact information and threatens to send the images to the victim’s family and friends.
TIPS ON HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF:
- NEVER send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are — or who they say they are.
- Do not open attachments from people you do not know. Links can secretly hack your electronic devices using malware to gain access to your private data, photos, and contacts, or control your web camera and microphone without your knowledge.
- Turn off your electronic devices and web cameras when not in use.
IF YOU ARE RECEIVING SEXTORTION THREATS:
- Remember you are not alone as thousands are victimized by this scam.
- Stop all interaction with the extortionist and do not be embarrassed or afraid to contact law enforcement.
- File a complaint with the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov.