I have been warning you about sextortion scams for seven years, but a story reported on CNN indicates how this scam can become deadly. Ryan Last was a 17 year old California boy who corresponded with someone online pretending to be a teenage girl who sent a nude photo purporting to be of herself to Ryan and asked him to share a nude photo in return. When he did, the scammer then demanded $5,000 or else the scammer said he or she would post the photo online and send it to Ryan’s family and friends. Overwhelmed by the situation, Ryan committed suicide that night.
The FBI is warning parents about adult predators, often posing as young girls, contacting teenage boys on a variety of online platforms such as games or social media and then convincing the teenage boys to engage in explicit sexual activity while unbeknownst to the teenaged boy, the predator is recording it. The scammer then reveals to the teenager that the scammer has the recording and threatens to post it online unless a substantial payment is made.
The FBI reported that there were more than 18,000 sextortion related complaints made to the FBI in 2021 with more than 13 million dollars paid by victims of the scam to the scammers. According to the FBI these figures are probably low as many people, out of embarrassment, fail to report the crime which, according to the FBI often originates in Africa or Southeast Asia.
The FBI is advising parents to tell their children to be very careful as to what they share online. Social media accounts which are open to everyone provide predators and scammers with a lot of information that the scammers can use to lure people into scams. Discuss the appropriate privacy settings with your children for all of their accounts.
The FBI also tells parents to remind their children that they can never be sure as to who they are communicating with online and they should be particularly skeptical if they meet someone on a game or app who then asks to speak with them on a different platform.
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