Spike in sextortion schemes targeting young boys spurs warning from FBI Jacksonville

Predators posing as girls are tricking boys into creating sexually graphic material, then extorting them, agents warn

FBI Jacksonville says it’s seeing an increase in the number of online predators targeting young boys.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – FBI Jacksonville says it’s seeing an increase in the number of online predators targeting young boys.

They’re convincing them to send graphic pictures of themselves -- and using them in a sextortion scheme.

Online predators will stop at nothing to target children into producing sexually graphic images of themselves online and now the FBI is warning families they’re going a step further.

The FBI says criminals are posing as young girls and initiating chats with young boys to coerce them into recording themselves performing sexual acts. From there, predators will secretly record the clips and then demand money to prevent them from leaking. They threaten that if they don’t pay up, the videos they’ve been coerced into making will become public.

“Historically speaking, by and large the majority of our victims have been minor females. What we are seeing is an increasing trend in minor boys, males, being the victims of a sextortion scheme,” said FBI Jacksonville Supervisory Special Agent CJ Goodman. “We are seeing cases with hundreds of victims.”

Goodman said it’s likely there are many more.

“We do think there is a lot of guilt and shame and embarrassment that goes along with this, so we’re sure that victims are not coming forward as readily as we hope that they would,” Goodman said.

According to the FBI, sextortion is a major crime and crimes involving children could carry a sentence of up to life behind bars.

The FBI says it's seeing an increase in the number of online predators targeting young boys. There is also a disturbing twist to what these criminals are doing.

Goodman said to look out for warning signs, which include your child being reclusive, depressed or secretive.

“Be involved in your children’s life. Be involved in the devices that are in your home. The privacy settings, the capabilities of those devices,” Goodman said.

He said parents need to be on alert and:

  • Check their privacy settings
  • Have the conversation with their children, male and female
  • Teach them that anyone can pretend to be someone else online
  • Tell them not to engage with strangers, rather block them
  • Explain to them not to share personal information
  • Advise them to be suspicious of those who want to use alternative chat platforms
  • Report anything suspicious to law enforcement

The FBI says, unfortunately, many sextortion cases go unreported, but last year, the bureau says it received roughly 18,000 complaints with victims losing more than $13 million.

Jacksonville's FBI Division is warning about an increase in sextortion schemes targeting teen boys. FBI Agent C.J. Goodman joins us to discuss what's going on in these schemes and how to avoid them.

The FBI wants your kids and their friends to always be safe, that’s why it’s holding a free summit for everyone called “Be Smart with your Smartphone: Teen Edition.”

It’ll be held from 6-7:30 p.m. April 21 in the Creekside High School Auditorium in St. Johns County. Parents and students from neighboring school districts are welcome to attend.

As always, if you’re the victim of online abuse call the FBI Jacksonville field office.

If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:

  1. Contact local law enforcement, FBI Jacksonville at 904-248-7000 or tips.fbi.gov, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST/Cybertipline.org.
  2. Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
  3. Tell law enforcement everything about the encounters; it may be embarrassing, but necessary.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.