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FBI: Sextortion On The Rise Across UC, Nation

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
FBI: Sextortion On The Rise Across UC, Nation

An FBI expert said sextortion, in all forms, continues to increase among Upper Cumberland young people and nationally.

Supervisory Special Agent Beth Kreppein said sextortion happens when a criminal coerces a minor to share sexually explicit images or videos. Then, the criminal threatens to release those items if they do not receive more explicit materials or money. Kreppein said children need to feel safe enough to notify parent and law enforcement if they are victimized.

“More important than anything else is to tell these kids that they’re not alone,” Kreppein said. “There is help available. We have victim services available to these kids, and we will, it’s very discrete. We provide as much help or as little help as they want, but we’re here for them, and we want them to report these, whether it’s themselves or their friends, as soon as possible.”

Kreppein said parents need to be aware of their children’s activities online and who they are communicating with. Kreppein said perpetrators will use gaming consoles as well as instant imaging apps, live streams, and social media to reach young people.

“So they’ll target these kids and groom them,” Kreppein said. “Pretend to be somebody that they’re not, get these kids comfortable, they may even, the offenders will send an image that’s not the offender of another, you know, individual the same age as the victim, and encourage the victim to then send an image, a sexually explicit image of themselves back.”

Kreppein said sextortion has existed for some time, but is becoming more common as the internet continues to grow and people get more lax with their online activity. Kreppein said teens and young adults are being targeted across the country regardless of other demographics.

“It has been out there pretty much since the internet existed, but there’s more and more people out there trying to look for ways to take advantage of people,” Kreppein said.

Kreppein said they have had cases where offenders make explicit images of victims with artificial intelligence and use it to threaten individuals, even if they never shared anything with the criminals.

“Individuals will just take the face of somebody and put it on a body that’s not the individual’s body, and then threaten to do more of those and send those out. So it looks like it’s actually them, but it’s not,” Kreppein said. “And so that is a new twist that we’re seeing on a lot of these.”

Kreppein said they have even seen criminals make fake explicit images using old photos of young adults from when they were children found on social media. Kreppein said underage girls are the primary victims in cases where the offender wants more images or videos, while teenage boys are targeted more often for the financial variant of the crime.

“Unfortunately, what we’re seeing is a lot of these offenders for these financial sextortions are in other countries,” Kreppein said. “In West African countries, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, and also Southeast Asia. That’s not to say that we’re not able to prosecute and locate and identify these offenders. We certainly are, and we have been doing different prosecutions.”


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