INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Sextortion is described as a cybercrime of manipulating children or teenagers into sharing sexually explicit content and then using the initial images to blackmail the youths into sharing more.
Doug Kouns, a former FBI agent and the founder of Veracity IIR, said sextortion normally happens when adults posing as children or teens manipulates youths into sending explicit images.
“It’s usually fairly benign at first, but, once they have that, they keep using it to manipulate you into sending more and more,” Kouns said.
He said the best way to protect children is to prevent the cybercrime from happening, with open conversations at home.
“Opening the lines of communication is the biggest thing,” Kouns said. “Having some awkward conversations and letting them know the dangers that once you send something out there, it’s out there forever.”
The FBI, Indiana State Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office want parents to be aware of these dangers. In a video to families, Superintendent Doug Carter of Indiana State Police said parents should be monitoring kids’ online presence.
“Please take a look at your kids’ phones. Who are they talking to? What social media applications do they have access to? Have you noticed any changes in their behavior? You have the power to root out these individuals,” Carter said.
Kouns said children and teens can be the ones to coerce other underage individuals into sending these images.
“If you’re sharing something with your boyfriend or girlfriend, they may share that with other people, especially if you break up,” Kouns said. “Those things tend to get out.”
Kouns notes sextortion is illegal, and those images can be considered to be child sexual abuse materials.
Experts advise not giving into sextortion demands for addition images or money. The experts said giving in will likely not stop the extortion, and could result in demands for more. Instead, call the police and preserve the evidence, including the content, the messages, the usernames and other pertinent information.