The FBI and our international law enforcement partners are issuing a joint warning about a global financial sextortion crisis. Our agencies have seen an explosion in incidents of minor boys around the world being coerced into sending explicit images online and extorted for money—a crime called financial sextortion.
In 2022, the FBI received thousands of reports related to the financial sextortion of minors, primarily boys, representing an exponential increase from previous years. Unfortunately, the FBI is also aware of more than a dozen suicides following these incidents. Today, on Safer Internet Day, we are urging children and caregivers to educate themselves about this crime and help us protect others from being victimized.
“Financial sextortion has a far wider impact than just our country and our kids—it is a global crisis that demands everyone’s attention,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI is working hand-in-hand with our international partners to prevent children from becoming victims of this tragic crime. We all have a duty to support and empower victims to come forward and show them that there is life after images.”
Financial sextortion can happen anywhere, although it mainly occurs on the digital platforms where children are already spending their screen time, like social media and gaming websites, or video chat applications. On these platforms, predators often pose as girls of a similar age and use fake accounts to target young boys, deceiving them into sending explicit photos or videos. The predator then threatens to release the compromising materials unless the victim sends payment, however, in many cases, the predator will release the images anyway.
Even though financial sextortion is committed virtually, it can have serious impacts offline. After the threats and aggression, victims may feel alone, ashamed, scared, and these feelings can lead to children resorting to self harm. Law enforcement around the world wants victims to know they are not in trouble, they are not alone, and there is life after pictures.
What to do if you are being financially sextorted:
- Remember, the predator is to blame, not your child or you.
- Report the predator’s account via the platform’s safety feature.
- Block the predator and do not delete the profile or messages because that can be helpful to law enforcement in identifying and stopping them.
- Ask for help from a trusted adult or law enforcement before sending money or more images. Cooperating rarely stops the blackmail and harassment, but law enforcement can.
- Trust that there is life after images.
If young people are being exploited, they are victims of a crime and should report it. We encourage you to contact your local FBI field office, call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at tips.fbi.gov.
Michelle DeLaune, CEO, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children:
“We understand how young victims of this crime can feel like there’s no way out, but we want them to know that they’re not alone. In the past year, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has received more than 10,000 sextortion-related reports. Please talk to your children about what to do if they (or their friends) are targeted online. NCMEC has free resources to help them navigate an overwhelming and scary situation.”
Gord Sage, Chief Superintendent, Sensitive and Specialized Investigative Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police:
“The RCMP is pleased to be working with international law enforcement partners to help to ensure young people are protected online. These crimes are real, they have serious implications, and young people need to understand that police are there to support them. These offenders prey on young people and this is not acceptable. International police are united in our fight against these crimes.”
Robert Jones, Chair, Virtual Global Taskforce, National Crime Agency:
“International cooperation has never been more important in tackling the threat of online child sexual abuse. The strength of the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) comes from being able to share expertise and take rapid coordinated action against emerging global trends such as the rising threat of financial extortion. As chair, I am determined to maximise every opportunity afforded by the VGT to help us to continue to bear down on the threat, protect children and target offenders.”
“Whilst we are committed to doing everything we can, the most important reminder of Safer Internet Day is to continue having open conversations about online safety within our communities and especially with the young people in our lives. Thankfully there is an arsenal of preventative tools available globally to support caregivers, professionals and young people such as the Safer Internet Day activities, and the CEOP Education website in the UK.”
Chief Myron Demkiw, Police Chief, Toronto Police Service:
“Online sexual offences do not have any borders, and through our Internet Child Exploitation (I.C.E) Unit the Toronto Police Service is proud to join our Canadian and international law enforcement partners in this important prevention campaign. Our I.C.E unit works tirelessly to protect children and youth from Internet child exploitation, including financial sextortion and to bring those responsible to justice. We all have a role to play in protecting our children and youth and partnerships like this will ensure we are raising awareness and effectively sharing prevention information around these harmful crimes, not just locally but around the world.”
Resources by Country
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom