by(The Center Square)
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and several federal law enforcement agencies have issued a public safety alert about the “alarming increase” in online exploitation of children and teenagers.
“Sextortion is when a child is threatened or blackmailed, usually online, by a person who demands sexual content (photos/videos) or money,” the Department of Justice explains.
Last month, the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, in partnership with the National Center for Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (NCMEC), issued a public safety alert about “an alarming increase in “sectoration cases.
On Tuesday, Moody issued a public safety alert asking parents and guardians to “please talk to your children about this disturbing crime and make sure they know not to take or send explicit images to anyone. Keep an open dialogue with your children and urge them to tell you if they are asked to exchange inappropriate content.”
The DOJ reports that nearly 3,000 minors were victims of sexual assault in the US last year.
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Sexual abuse occurs “when a child or adolescent shares an image with someone they think they know or trust, but the person gains the child’s trust through deception, coercion, or deception (and sometimes, predators falsely claim to have obtained photos of the child that may have been shared with someone else). Once the predator acquires the images, the victim is subjected to additional “They threaten to release compromising material unless they send pictures, money or gift cards,” the DOJ explains.
Often, predators demand payment through various apps, but only after they receive the money will they release the images.
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“The shame, fear and confusion that victims feel when caught in this cycle prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse,” the DOJ says.
Sextortion schemes occur online using social media and gaming sites or video chat applications. Predators are often creating fake female accounts, the DOJ explains, to target teenage boys between 14- and 17-years-old, although it also exposes victims as young as 10.
DOJ publishes resources to help Americans identify and report online exploitation and sexual assault.
Florida’s 2022 Human Trafficking Summit has hosted a session on sextortion that provides additional information.
During the summit, the Florida Department of Children and Families encouraged parents and guardians to consider taking several precautionary measures. This includes being aware of their children’s online activity; They need to make their social media accounts private; prevent changing or using a fake date of birth to access sites online; Explains that others’ online profiles may be fake.
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Last year, Moody’s released an online safety toolkit to help inform parents and guardians about how the Internet is being used by human traffickers. It also includes tips on how to create effective online safety plans for safe Internet use.
Parents who believe their children may be targeted by a potential predator are encouraged to call the NCMEC CyberTipline (1-800-843-5678) and their local FBI field office (1-800-CALL-FBI; Tips.FBI; Tips.FBI).gov).
NCMEC reminds parents, “Remember, the predator is to blame, not your child or you.”
It recommends that victims “seek help before deciding whether to pay the money or follow the predator.” Cooperating or paying rarely stops the blackmail and constant harassment.
They are encouraged to report and block the alleged predatory account. But they are advised not to delete their profile or message information that could be used by law enforcement.
It says NCMEC helps victims remove explicit images from the internet.
It encourages the use of helpful tools to report sextortion, including org/IsYourExplicitContentOutThere and cybertipline.org.
Children and youth who feel unsafe to tell an adult about being a victim of fraud schemes are encouraged to contact NCMEC directly ([email protected]; 1-800-the-last).
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.