CHARLOTTE — A warning to all parents about a rapid rise in “sextortion” cases.
It’s a relatively new phenomenon. Predators enticing kids to send them naked pictures or videos, and then using those images to get even more.
“Our mission has changed a little bit,” said Special Agent John Letterhos who works with the Child Exploitation Task Force.
He used to focus his efforts on predators sharing child porn. Now, it’s kids who freely give the images to the predators.
“Sextortion is similar to extortion, but instead of the money, the end result from the bad guy is obtaining video of a child.” said Agent Letterhos. “It has grown substantially over the last year or two. This is a Ballantyne problem. This is a Fort Mill problem. This is an upper middle class problem”
A case that started in Charlotte involving boys as young as 12 a couple of years ago helped to catch an international online predator in Miami. A judge eventually sentenced Patrick Kellen, Jr. to 139 years behind bars.
The Charlotte office of the FBI released a video to try and drive home the dangers of sextortion.
“Parents have to be active,” said Agent Letterhos.
In all of the case he’s investigated, the agent’s noticed one thing.
“All video/picure taken from the bedroom,” said Agent Letterhos. “It’s the living room test. If it’s not something you should be doing in the living room, you shouldn’t be doing it at all.”
Here are the tips that the FBI has given on how to prevent your child from being a victim:
- Make children aware that anything done online may be available to others;
- Make sure children’s apps and social networking sites’ privacy settings are set to the strictest level possible;
- Anyone who asks a child to engage in sexually explicit activity online should be reported to a parent, guardian, or law enforcement;
- It is not a crime for a child to send sexually explicit images to someone if they are compelled to do so, so victims should not be afraid to tell law enforcement if they are being sexually exploited;
- Parents should put personal computers in a central location in the home;
- Parents should review and approve apps downloaded to smart phones and mobile devices and monitor activity on those devices;
- Ensure an adult is present and engaged when children communicate via webcam; and
- Discuss Internet safety with children before they engage in any online activity and maintain those discussions as children become teenagers.
For more information of “sextortion” from the FBI’s Charlotte division, visit here or Common Sense Media. View the PSA below.
TWCNEWS: FBI Issues Warning About “Sextortion”