'Heartbreaking': Scam artists extorting children by putting their faces on explicit images

Posted at 4:23 PM, Dec 05, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The FBI is warning parents that threat actors are putting the faces of children on explicit images in an effort to extort them for cash.

In 2019, the FBI began to see an influx of so-called sextortion cases. In these cases, adults request pornographic photos from children by posing as minors, and then they threaten to expose them unless the children pay up.

"Now, fast forward the last year, year and a half: we’ve really seen the threat actors — they’re more financially motivated," Intelligence Analyst Rachel Ardohain said.

Currently, they're plastering the faces of children onto explicit photos according to Ardohain.

"And it involves using deep fake technology, which is using artificial intelligence," Ardohain said.

Usually, they make contact on apps like Instagram and Snapchat. If the children don't pay them in gift cards or cash, they will share the fake photos with friends and family.

If the pictures go public, it can be devastating.

In October, NewsChannel5 interviewed a mom anonymously who said it happened to her son.

"He called me hysterical. He has a problem with bullying at school and he said, 'I'm done. I'm going to kill myself. I can't do this. Everybody is going to make fun of me,'” said the mom.

"Unfortunately, teenagers — they feel hopeless," Ardohain said. "They have anxiety, fear, depression, and recently we’ve been seeing suicides as a result of this victimization, and that is really something that we want to prevent."

As a mom, Ardohain hopes parents will report these crimes early so they can be stopped.

“It truly is heartbreaking,” Ardohain said.

It is said that a lot of times, those arrested are overseas. So, if you are a sextortion victim, call the FBI or local law enforcement immediately. Tips can also be reported online.

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