OKEMOS, Mich. (WLNS) – FBI agents said they are tracking an increase in “sextortion” cases, especially targeting teens.
The term “sextortion” describes crimes where a criminal demands money or sexually explicit material from a victim, sometimes after pretending to be someone else
Federal investigators said the suspects are not always someone acting alone behind the screen, it could be something much more complex.
“It’s teams of people, it’s rooms of people. It’s the same people that do romance scams and things like that. It’s the same overseas entities that are now targeting our kids,” said FBI Special Agent Christopher Rodolico.
His talk at Okemos High School is part of a series the FBI’s East Lansing office has been doing in schools around mid-Michigan geared towards getting parents and students up to speed on the crime of sextortion.
Data from the FBI Detroit field office shows cases processed by investigators have been sharply rising since 2021.
Tips about possible sextortion have been exploding from below 200 tips in 2021 to 600 tips reported in the last year.
Rodolico believes it’s criminals looking for an easier payday.
“As opposed to trying to get $40,000 or $50,000 from an elderly person from their retirement fund to unlock some other wealth, $500 that is collected from our children is a more efficient scam for them,” he said.
For bad actors, the gain is not always money.
In January, a 21-year-old Florida man was in federal court charged with the exploitation of a minor, and receipt of child pornography in a case involving a 13-year-old Clinton County girl he allegedly contacted via Snapchat.
SEE MORE: Experts say sextortion cases are on the rise
While the trend was a shock for some parents, others like Francisco Garcia said they have heard of this before. He agrees with Rodolico’s suggestion that open dialogue with your kids is key.
“There’s a little bit of fear but at the same time, we have to trust our children through open communication and acceptance,” he said.
Michigan State University Researcher Karen Holt said another key to prevention is having age-appropriate talks about internet use and body safety with your kid to help build trust and understanding.