'It’s tragic, it’s scary' Uptick in child sextortion cases

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Posted at 3:36 PM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 18:30:43-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — FBI agents are investigating so-called sextortion schemes that involve children as young as 7 years old.

Agents said internet predators will threaten to expose the child for sending sexual photos unless they send them money.

According to FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas Korneski, in new cases, an adult will pose as a teen girl on a game, app, or on social media. Usually, they will message the teen boy online to exchange sexual photographs. Korneski said the youngest male victim is 7 years old.

"It’s tragic, it’s scary, but it’s not surprising unfortunately." Korneski said, "Typically it’s a couple hundred dollars."

Some children are embarrassed or scared to tell their parents.

In one case, Korneski said it lead to a suicide. "As an adult we make mistakes, young people maybe haven’t made as many, so this seems overwhelming,” Korneski said, “Just realize that you’re not alone."

If parents find these messages on a computer, or their child's phone, agents ask that they don't delete anything.

"Don’t recontact the subject," Korneski saidm "don’t tell them 'I know who you are,' or anything like that or 'I’m telling police,’ because that makes our job more difficult."

These crimes fall under child sexual abuse material, so they could face life in prison. "At their core they’re predators; they’re preying on people who are at risk,” Korneski said.

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 18,000 sextortion-related complaints in 2021 for all age groups. Losses of more than $13.6 million were reported across the country. With people staying home, they saw an increase in these cases during the pandemic.

If your child is a victim, call the FBI or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST. You can also make a report online.

“We tell kids don’t take candy from strangers on the street."Korneski said, "This is no different.”