FBI warns parents, children about growing threat of sextortion

The FBI’s No. 1 concern when it comes to children and their phones is the threat of sextortion.

Sextortion is when someone coerces a child into taking and sending sexually explicit pictures or videos, then threatens to release them unless the child takes more pictures and sends them.

The FBI is seeing a major spike in financial sextortion — that’s when the criminal threatens to release compromising pictures or video unless they’re paid.

To give you perspective, the FBI received more than 13,000 reports of financial sextortion between October 2021 and March of last year.

In 2022 alone, FBI Jacksonville saw 387 sextortion victims and more than $15 million was lost in those schemes.

Those who are typically targeted are young boys between the ages of 14 and 17, but any child can become a victim.

The price can also go beyond money. The FBI says financial sextortion has led to at least 20 suicides.

FBI Jacksonville will hold a “Be Smart” event from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday at Creekside High School in St. Johns County to talk more about the warning signs of sextortion and other steps parents should take to protect their children online.

The event is free, and the FBI invites all parents and educators but warns it might not be suitable for children.

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