The FBI has seen a huge increase in the number of cases involving children and teens being threatened and coerced by adults into sending explicit images online—a crime called sextortion.
Sextortion can start on any site, app, or game where people meet and communicate. In some cases, the first contact from the criminal will be a threat. The person may claim they already have a revealing picture or video of a child that they will share if the victim does not send more pictures. More often, however, this crime starts when young people believe they are communicating with someone their own age who is interested in a relationship or with someone who is offering something of value. The adult will use threats, gifts, money, flattery, lies, or other methods to get a young person to produce an image.
After the criminal has one or more videos or pictures, they threaten to share publish that content, or they threaten violence, to get the victim to produce more images. The shame, fear, and confusion children feel when they are caught in this cycle often prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse. Caregivers and young people should understand how the crime occurs and openly discuss online safety.