FBI alerts public on ‘staggering increase’ in sexploitation among minors

Christopher Wray
FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks to journalists at the Omaha FBI office on Wednesday. (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

FBI alerts public on ‘staggering increase’ in sexploitation among minors

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At least 3,000 minors, primarily young boys, have been victims of sextortion over the past year, and the FBI is warning parents to teach their children about the dangers of sexploitation as winter breaks begin.

The FBI, along with the Homeland Security Investigations and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), released a public safety alert on Monday warning parents about the serious uptick in sexploitation reports.

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Over the past year, law enforcement has received over 7,000 reports related to online financial sextortion of minors, contributing to more than a dozen suicides.

A large percentage of these sextortion crimes originate outside of the United States, primarily in West African countries such as Nigeria and Ivory Coast, per the agency.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement that many victims who are afraid to come forward are not even included as part of the 7,000 reports and 3,000 victims.

“The FBI is here for victims, but we also need parents and caregivers to work with us to prevent this crime before it happens and help children come forward if it does,” Wray said. “Victims may feel like there is no way out — it is up to all of us to reassure them that they are not in trouble, there is hope, and they are not alone.”

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr., who works in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said it is society’s “sacred duty” to protect children and see the warning signs of sexploitation, such as identifying fake accounts and avoiding attempts to obtain private material.

Through deception, predators can convince minors to produce explicit videos or photos and then threaten to release them unless they are sent money or gift cards. Oftentimes, predators release the images even if payments are made — causing victims to feel shame and fear, preventing them from reporting abuse or asking for help.

Michelle DeLaune, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), said sexploitation is a “growing crisis” that the center has seen “completely devastate” families and children.

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“The best defense against this crime is to talk to your children about what to do if they’re targeted online,” DeLaune said. “We want everyone to know help is out there and they’re not alone.”

Parents and caregivers can view the alert, which outlines steps for parents to take if their child becomes a victim, and can visit fbi.gov/sextortion for information, resources, and conversation guides.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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