Sextortion, which is a made up term for “sexual extortion,” has become such a problem that the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has issued warnings about it. What is sextortion? You are probably asking yourself that very question, as I once did, before going down the rabbit hole and finding out just how serious this is and how many victims have suffered from it.
Sextortion – What is it?
Sextortion happens when someone makes a threat to unleash private details about you if you don’t meet their demands. Many times, the criminal demands cash, sexual favors, photos, or videos of the victim performing lewd sexual acts. This direct threat is a financial burden on the victim, not to mention the emotional harm that is caused by all of this stress.
In short, sextortion is sexual exploitation.
It’s such a rampant crime right now that the Justice Department is being proactive in spreading warnings about it.
According to an FBI PSA, there have been more than 16,000 complaints of this crime in 2021 (up until July 31.) Losses from this number of cases are larger than $8 million. About half of the victims were under the age of 40, but older than the age of 20, so we aren’t talking about young people who don’t know any better, these are grown-up adults who know better but who fell victim to this awful crime. Of the victims, the over 60 crowd were the third largest sub-set of victims, and the fewest crimes were committed against people under the age of 20.
How Do People Fall Into the Trap of Sextortion?
Unfortunately, one man’s playground is another man’s workshop for deviancy and criminal behavior.
The lion’s share of victim’s are becoming in contact with the fraudsters on dating apps and websites where people are supposed to meet people for romance. Obviously, the Internet is a large place and there are people doing all sorts of bad stuff on sites like Facebook, and of course, I’ve written about people going to prison for catfishing online as well as all the other scams that can happen on any website, not just websites for love and dating.
As a lot of the stories go, the couple meet online, and then the fraudster urges the new match to interact on another platform, such as Text or WhatsApp. Once they start conversing, the pair start to exchange sexual images of one another at the fraudsters urging, and then the fraudster urges the victim to get on a video chat and take things to the next level. As you can probably assume, once the victim has given up sexual images or videos, the fraudster then starts the process of blackmailing the victim, with the threat of releasing the content to social media. The very unscrupulous ones are the ones that threaten to share them with the victim’s family members.
(As a cautious person, this is something I’d never suggest doing with someone you haven’t met. My guard is way up there, and yours should be too.)
This is a graphic courtesy to Protect Young Eyes, an organization that helps Families, Schools, And Churches Create Safer Digital Environments. The scariest part of this graphic is that 60% of the victims actually new the perpetrators personally prior to having threats. If that’s not scary enough, 45% of the threats were actually carried out.
Again, while this is also a very serious crime like human trafficking, it’s much different than the people who are forced to be sex workers at Asian Rub & Tugs because at least 40% of the time the victims have never met the perpetrator in person. Imagine someone you’ve never known, or met, putting you through a living hell?
How to Protect Yourself from Sextortion
- Don’t ever engage in exchanging compromising photos or videos of yourself
- Never open attachments from people you don’t know. Make sure to password protect all areas where you house sensitive data and media
- Turn off your webcam if not using it, and lock your phone when not using it
If you are using sex dating apps like I do, NEVER trade nude pics with someone you don’t know or trust. You never know who is on the other end of the line when you share media with someone you haven’t personally met, and after recently watching the NetFlix Series “Clickbait,” I’m really cautious about what I do or say online in my exchanges with people I met on dating apps. (Highly recommend that series!)
Have You Received a Sextortion Threat?
- This happens, you are not alone
- Stop conversing with the fraudster, contact your local law enforcement ASAP
- File a complaint with the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov.
How to Deal With Facebook Sextortion
If you ever come across someone who is making threats to share incriminating or insulting images or videos of you if you don’t pay their ransom, you are a possible victim of sextortion. There is such a thing as “Facebook Sextortion,” and if this happens to you, here is what you need to do:
- Be calm. Don’t give any emotion, signs of panic, or worse, retaliative threats to the perp.
- Do not send them money.
- Keep all messages, threats, and even the persons Facebook account URL.
- Check all of your privacy settings on your other social media accounts and use them to the fullest.
- Report the person’s account by clicking their cover picture, selecting “Report Profile” and following the sequence of steps.
- Report everything to the FBI using this form.
- Talk to law enforcement as needed and fully cooperate.
- Create a “Google Alert” so you can monitor your name and see if any new content or media shows up.