BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating an uptick of sextortion schemes targeting children in Louisiana.
The FBI has seen an uptick in these crimes particularly in Monroe, Alexandria, and Shreveport.
FBI Public Affairs Officer Connor Higan says predators are posing as children on social media and forcing minors into sending sexual videos and then using those videos to extort money from their victims.
“It’s a scary time for sure,” said Higan. “We see it across all platforms and that can include [an] introduction on gaming platforms.”
Higan says victims range in demographics, but boys are most common to fall victim to the scheme.
The Attorney General’s Cyber Security Commander David Ferris says sextortion has increased since the pandemic. He says children are more vulnerable because they’re doing school work online and staying home.
“Two years ago prior to Covid, we were seeing numbers right around 2,000 cases a year, that we were receiving through our office. Last year, we were somewhere right around 6,000 cases. And we are well over that track right now, we received just 1,487 cases just this first quarter,” said Ferris.
Higan says children and parents can look out for some common red flags.
“One of the biggest red flags of these is when the criminal, and again who is pretending to be juvenile, says to their victim even though I met you on Instagram let’s chat on WhatsApp or on Snapchat,” he said.
Experts say now is the time to start talking to your children.
“The internet is not necessarily a bad place, but anything that can be used for good can be used for bad,” said Ferris.
The FBI provided some tips to protect children online:
- Everyone should be wary of anyone they encounter online, block or ignore messages from strangers.
- People can pretend to be anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
- Be highly suspicious if someone you meet on a game or app asks you to start communicating with them on a different platform.
- Encourage children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
Experts say if you are a victim, don’t delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it, then call local law enforcement.
The office of Attorney General Jeff Landy provides more on cyber safety here.