The FBI wants to warn parents, educators, caregivers, and children about sextortion, a crime that involves the solicitation and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual acts that are photographed or filmed and provided to an offender they have met online.
“Due to the ubiquitous nature of the internet and internet-connected devices in our lives, the conversation about healthy social interactions on the internet is equally as important as the discussion about refraining from taking explicit photos or filming explicit acts,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI Sacramento Field Office. “Mistakes can and do happen; you should be supported—not shamed—to ensure these crimes are reported, offenders are apprehended, and every effort is made to support victims as they navigate this traumatic experience.”
Sextortion is a term used to describe a crime in which an offender coerces a minor to create and send sexually explicit images or video. After receiving the sexually explicit content from the child, the offender threatens to release that compromising material unless the victim produces additional explicit material. In these cases, the offenders are motivated by the sexual gratification they receive from the content.
Financially motivated sextortion follows a similar pattern with a different goal. After receiving the sexually explicit material, the offender threatens to release the compromising material unless the victim provides payment—often as gift cards, mobile payment services, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. In these cases, the offenders are primarily motivated by financial gain, not solely sexual gratification.
Offenders who engage in financially motivated sextortion are often located outside the United States—primarily in west African countries such as Nigeria and Ivory Coast, or Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines. The victims they target are often males between the ages of 14 to 17, but any child can become a victim.
In the six-month period from October 2022 to March 2023, the FBI observed an increase in reporting of financially motivated sextortion incidents involving minor victims compared to the same period the previous year of greater than 20%.
The FBI has seen a significant increase in reported sextortion incidents and the majority of these involve financial sextortion. They are urging victims to preserve all evidence and seek help quickly. Don’t delete any communication, even if it is embarrassing. It is important to know that the FBI protects and supports victims of sextortion, ensuring they are connected to the resources they need to recover.
These crimes can lead victims to self-harm and has led to suicide. From October 2021 to March 2023, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations received over 13,000 reports of online financial sextortion of minors. The sextortion involved at least 12,600 victims—primarily boys—and led to at least 20 suicides.
If you or someone you know believes that they are a victim of sextortion, immediately report the activity to law enforcement. You can report it to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or visiting tips.fbi.gov.