Federal Bureau of Investigation warns parents and children that criminals from West African countries are targeting teenage boys online. They threaten to release explicit photos of victims if they don’t pay.
According to Cleveland.com, citing a recent FBI warning, “The girl next door from your neighboring high school who is talking up your teenaged boy on Facebook or Instagram might actually be a criminal out of West Africa.”
Predators target boys aged 13-17 through instant-messaging apps such as Instagram or Facebook messenger. They claim to be young girls from the nearby community. The predators first share explicit photos and then ask youths to share their own photos before using the photos or videos as blackmail.
Criminals often come from Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. They then demand money or gift certificates in return for the threat of sharing the images publicly. Many victims are placed in a vicious cycle of “shame and fear” that can make it difficult for them to report crimes.
“The FBI has witnessed a horrendous increase in reports about financial sextortion schemes targeted minor boys — and it is the fact that many victims who are afraid of coming forward are not included in those numbers,” stated Christopher Wray, FBI Director.
In just eight months, 2022 authorities received more than 7000 reports of online financial “sextortion.” According to the FBI, this is a serious crime where someone threatens you with your private and sensitive material if they don’t give them images of them in a sexual nature, favors, or money.
Fox News reports that predators continue to release graphic images, even though they receive compensation in some cases.
Out of the at least 3,000 victims of said crimes, more than a dozen have committed suicide. Reports from the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have determined some of the victims be as young as just 10 years old.
Federal agencies say that predators often “appear out-of-the-blue” before they “rapidly transform the conversation into sharing explicit images or videos.”
Teens are encouraged to be skeptical of strangers they meet online, especially if they engage in sexualized conversations.