REGION — The FBI San Diego Field Office issued a public warning today about the growing problem of sextortion of minors, a form of child sex abuse that involves coercion of minors to create and transmit sexually explicit material.
Perpetrators of the crimes persuade juveniles to generate sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves, then threaten to release the compromising material unless the victims produce more of the material, according to the federal agency.
“Nationwide, and right here in San Diego, sextortion has become a major problem,” John Kim, special agent in charge of the city’s FBI office, said in a statement. “Cases in our area have doubled over the past year, and the overwhelming majority of the cases target minors.”
While some offenders are solely seeking sexual gratification, others extort payments, often in the form of gift cards, cryptocurrency, wire transfers, or mobile payment services, according to the agency.
Financially motivated perpetrators are usually based outside the United States, frequently in West African countries such as the Ivory Coast and Nigeria, or such Southeast Asian countries as the Philippines, the FBI said.
Victims are typically boys between the ages of 14 and 17, but any child can become a victim, FBI officials noted.
The crimes can lead victims to self-harm, the federal agency advised. From October 2021 to March 2023, U.S. authorities received over 13,000 reports of online financial sextortion of minors. The offenses involved some 12,600 victims and led to at least 20 suicides, the FBI reported.
From October 2022 to March of last year, the federal agency documented a roughly 20% increase in reporting of financially motivated sextortion incidents involving minor victims, as compared with the comparable period the previous year.
“The best form of prevention is education and continued awareness,” Kim said. “Parents and caregivers should learn about what’s happening so they can talk with their kids about online safety.”
Those who believe they or a loved one has fallen victim to sextortion are asked to contact the federal investigative service at 800-CALL-FBI or https://tips.fbi.gov.