TUCSON, Ariz.(KGUN) — The FBI has a warning for parents this summer and online predators are targeting young men in sextortion cases, and they want to make sure parents have the tools needed to keep it from happening to your kids. Supervisory Special Agent Mary Gleason with the FBI says more males are being targeted these days and its happening while gaming online.
“Unfortunately, it’s a problem that’s not going away. The popular applications today for kids might not be there tomorrow. The FBI has been trying to stay ahead of it and stay on top of it, it's an uphill battle,” Gleason said.
Gleason says adults posing as young girls who are drawing in boys between 14 and 17-years-old to share sexual images. Once the videos and pictures are sent, criminals demand money from victims and threaten to expose them to family and friends online if they don’t pay up.
"We’ve had some as young as 11, and generally 17 and 18. Even young adults are falling for it. In many instances the parents that I call the children have paid. They're just exploiting the children who fear the photos or videos will get out there,” Gleason said.
According to the FBI contact is also made through social media and victims are located all over the world. Another note is parental control apps can also help in the process. Parents should be vigilant and watch for changes in behavior.
"If they’re withdrawn, if they go into a room and constantly close a door and that’s not something they normally do,” Gleason said.
Experts say users should block unknown people who try to connect, beware of users on gaming platforms who ask you to move to a different platform to chat and be sure kids understand that information sent over the internet is out there forever.
“In some instances, the parents have received the photos and the person has followed through on the threat and sent it on,” Gleason said.
In 2021, the FBI received more than 18,000 sextortion complaints of all kinds with losses of over 13.6 million dollars.
"That phone or iPad or even Xbox, should be monitored. It’s really important to think before you send, and I don’t think that’s happening right now,” Gleason said.
REPORT INTERNET CRIME HERE: https://www.ic3.gov/
Shawndrea Thomas is an anchor and investigative reporter for KGUN 9. Shawndrea is living her dream as a journalist who’s passionate about making a difference. Share your story ideas and important issues with Shawndrea by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.