FBI warns of predators targeting teens in sextortion cases: 19 Investigates

The FBI is warning teens and parents about predators targeting teens in sextortion cases.
Updated: Sep. 23, 2019 at 11:08 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -It’s a warning for parents from the FBI about protecting your kids online. Predators are becoming increasingly aggressive in what’s called sextortion scams.

In an interview with the FBI, a teen named Ashley spoke about her traumatic experience being sucked into a conversation with a stranger online.

“I just remember getting this message and the subject line said something about naked pictures that he has of me," Ashley said.

Ashley was a victim of sextortion. That means extortion related to sexual crimes. Predators entice and threaten victims into sending them pictures or videos. Right now, those predators are targeting teens going back to school.

“They know how kids talk. They know what chatroom’s they use. They know what social media they use. They know the gaming platforms they can communicate," explained Cleveland Division of the FBI Special Agent, Vicki Anderson.

FBI #StopSextortion Flyer
FBI #StopSextortion Flyer(FBI)

The Cleveland FBI division has already handed out flyers to more than 100 Northeast Ohio schools. It’s part of their new program called #StopSextortion to educate kids about how it happens and the dangers.

It even has an example of a text someone would send a teen.

“They’re threatened. These predators have threatened to kill families. They threaten to expose the child," Anderson said.

In 2017, a California man was charged with forcing underage girls to send him sexually explicit material.

He threatened hundreds of teens in the US including six from Indiana.

Buster Hernandez was accused of sending panic throughout community, even threatened to bomb local schools and businesses.

“They know how to get around things. They know how to make themselves look they’re coming from somewhere else," Anderson explained.

Anderson says they haven’t prosecuted any cases here, but there could be predators from other states contacting Northeast Ohio teens online right now.

“These predators stretch from wherever. So we could have a predator in our area that’s doing this or we could have victims in our area," she said.

Anderson says the best way to protect yourself is reporting the first time someone tries to message you. The second you send that first picture or video, the predator has leverage to threaten and extort.

“Once you send something, transmit anything online, whether it is posting something, providing someone a picture. That is forever," Anderson said.

The FBI wants teens to know, even if they do send that picture they’re not in trouble.

While predators get more sophisticated, so does FBI technology to track down and arrest suspects.

You can find out more about the FBI program and hotlines by clicking here.

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