Tips to protect children online from sexual predators
BOSTON (WWLP) – The FBI Boston Division is alerting parents and caregivers about an increase in young boys being involved in sextortion schemes on the internet.
The FBI Boston Division’s Child Exploitation – Human Trafficking Task Force stated they have received an increase of reports involving young boys being contacted over the internet by adults posing as young girls to get them to share sexual images and videos. The suspects then threaten the children to provide money or they will post their photos online. FBI agents say boys aged 14 to 17 are the primary target in the sextortion scheme.
Sextortion along with coercing a child for sexual images carries a penalty of up to life in prison for the offender. In order for the FBI to be able to prosecute these predators, children have to come forward to someone about the incident.
“Predators who ask for sexually explicit photos, videos, and then money to terrorize young victims with threats of posting their images online are incredibly disturbing, and on our radar,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “In order to spare children of the shame, fear, and confusion they feel when this happens, we’re asking parents and caregivers to talk to their children now about their online safety, and the importance of speaking up to prevent further victimization. Meanwhile, the special agents and officers assigned to FBI Boston’s Child Exploitation – Human Trafficking Task Force will do everything they can to unmask these criminals and ensure they face justice for the mental anguish and pain they have imposed on their victims and their families.”
The FBI is offering tips to protect your children online from sexual predators:
- 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 to figure out a lot of information about you or your children.
- Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
- Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
- Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
- Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
If you believe someone you know is a victim of sextortion, you are asked to contact the FBI Boston Division, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Victims are also asked to not delete anything until law enforcement can review it. Although incidents may be embarrassing, telling law enforcement everything about the incident can help find the predators.