Allegheny County

FBI Pittsburgh warns about recent surge in sexual extortion cases targeting teen boys

PITTSBURGH — FBI Pittsburgh is warning parents and teenagers about a recent surge in sexual extortion cases happening across the greater Pittsburgh area.

Investigators tell Channel 11 that predators are seeking out teenage boys online and posing as girls their age.

“Recently we’ve been seeing a significant increase in scams targeting teenage boys, mainly between the ages of 14-17,” said Timothy Wolford, Supervisory Special Agent FBI Pittsburgh.

The predators will begin conversations with the boys and then ask for nude photos and videos over time.

Once they receive the images, they threaten to blackmail the teens by posting the explicit images online and sending them to their family and friends.

Typically, the teens pay the predators.

However, the demand for additional payments continues to increase over time once the initial payment is sent.

“Because they’re so nervous about these pictures being released, they’re sending money to these people. Word is getting around so people are doing it more,” said Wolford.

The FBI Pittsburgh has seen a recent surge of these cases.

In 2021, 142 people were victimized, paying more than $39,000 to cyber criminals.

So far in 2022, 59 people have paid nearly $20,000.

In many instances, the predators will secretly record the images.

The FBI says their end goal is not the same as in prior child sex crimes.

“This scam is really different than what we’ve typically seen in ‘sextortion’ cases, where usually the goal is to get more explicit images and further sexual exploitation to the minor. In these cases, we’ve seen that it stops immediately once they have the image, and it’s strictly for financial gain, is what they’re looking for,” said Wolford.

The FBI provides the following tips to protect you and your children online:

  1. Be selective about what you share online, especially your personal information and     passwords. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able tofigure out a lot of information about you or your children.
  2. Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages fromstrangers.
  3. Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos arenot proof that a person is who they claim to be.
  4. Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking tothem on a different platform.
  5. Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.

If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sexual extortion:

  1. Contact your local FBI field office (contact information can be found at www.fbi.gov), theFBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov, or the National Center forMissing and Exploited Children at 800-THE-LOST (800-843-5678) or Cybertipline.org.
  2. Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
  3. Tell law enforcement everything about the encounters you had online; it may beembarrassing, but it is necessary to find the offender.

In 2021, IC3 received more than 18,000 sexual extortion-related complaints, with losses of more than $13.6 million.

More information about “sextortion” can be found at: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/stopsextortion-youth-face-risk-online-090319