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Sextortion

The Issue

Sextortion is a type of blackmail used by offenders to acquire additional sexual content from a child, coerce them into engaging in sexual activity or obtain money from the child. Children can sometimes become victims of sextortion after sexting with someone they thought they knew and trusted, but NCMEC analyses has found that children who are victims of sextortion are often targeted and blackmailed by an individual they met online. That person may use deceit, coercion, or another method to obtain a nude or sexual image of the child before blackmailing them for more.

NCMEC’s CyberTipline receives reports regarding suspected child sexual exploitation, including sextortion and has seen a dramatic increase in sextortion cases being reported. 

To learn more about sextortion, visit NCMEC’s Sextortion page, or download this report.

By the Numbers

Since 2016, the CyberTipline has received 262,573 reports of Online Enticement, the category that includes sextortion.

Between 2019 and 2021, the number of reports involving sextortion more than doubled.   

In earlier analysis, the dominant motive of offenders was to get more explicit images of a child, but in reports from early 2022, 79% of the offenders were seeking money.

What to do

If this is happening to you, it’s important to remember that Sextortion is a crime and you don’t have to go through this alone. We want you to get the support you need. Reach out to a trusted adult, a friend and NCMEC. To learn more about sextortion, visit NCMEC’s Sextortion page.

Remember it is not your fault

Some people are so good at manipulating teens that sometimes the teens don’t even realize they’ve been tricked. Then they might be afraid to say anything about it because:

  • They’ve been threatened.
  • They feel guilty and think people will blame them.
  • They think that no one will believe them. 
  • They feel confused and do not know what to do 
  • They feel alone and do not know who they can reach out to for help 
  • Boys may feel more embarrassed that this happened to them 

It might seem like you would be able to tell if someone online was not who they say they are but reports made to NCMEC’s CyberTipline show that people go to great lengths and are really skilled at pretending to be someone they are not.

Use these tips to help stop Sextortion before it begins

For Children 

  • Don’t take images of yourself that you wouldn’t want everyone to see.
  • Don’t forward anyone else’s picture or video. Imagine how betrayed you’d feel if this happened to you. 
  • Don’t ask or pressure anyone to share an image. Many teens send sexts because they’ve been asked to by a boyfriend, girlfriend or crush. But you shouldn’t ask anyone to take this kind of risk.     
  • Talk to a trusted adult or a friend if you receive a revealing image, are being pressured into sending one or have sent one.
  • Talk to your friends about being active bystanders by not resharing and saying something if someone else does.
  • Do not comply with blackmailing demands such as money or more images 

Parents 

  • You should start talking about online manners, or “netiquette,” with your youngest children so they have a good foundation for later lessons
  • You can talk to young children about not trusting everyone they meet online. By the time they’re teens, they’ll be ready to discuss these risks 
  • Ask questions about their online world and be involve 
  • Tell them that you are always here to help them and if something happens, you will be there for them because they should not go through something like that on their own.
  • Help them identify two or three other trusted adults they can talk to if they do not feel comfortable talking to you.
  • Stablish electronic rules: time allow, free electronics zones (bedroom), free electronic times (dinner, family activities)
  • Learn how to set up privacy settings and how to report inappropriate content 
  • Most importantly have open, respectful, and meaningful communication with your child

Red Flags

Recognizing the red flags associated with sextortion can help you protect yourself or your family. 

For Children 

Someone trying to groom you might:

  • Flatter you. 
  • Send you gifts, like cellphones or money 
  • Discuss adult subjects, like sex.
  • Ask you to keep secrets, such as not telling anyone about the relationship. 
  • Turn you against your family and friends - They want you to depend on them.  
  • Share or ask for revealing images.
  • Blackmail you - If you’ve shared revealing images or secrets with someone, they may threaten you to make them public unless you send more content or money. Paying the money and sending additional content rarely stops the blackmailing. THE BLACKMAILER COULD CONTINUE TO ASK FOR MORE. Most times payment of money or additional content does not ensure that the images or videos won’t be spread online. THE BLACKMAILER CAN’T BE TRUSTED. Instead, tell an adult you trust and/or report it to NCMEC immediately so they can help report it to law enforcement.

Parents 

  • Receiving gifts through the mail, cell phones, gift cards and webcams.
  • Calling unknown numbers.
  • Rejecting family and friends in favor of spending time online.
  • Getting upset when he or she can’t get online.
  • Minimizing the screen or turning off the monitor when you come into the room.

Resources

SEXTORTION: the hidden pandemic

The Hidden Pandemic is an investigation into the world of online grooming and sextortion--a present-day reality for one in seven children online. By unsealing the federal case of a top-gun pilot with hundreds of victims, and interviewing survivors and their parents, this true-crime piece exposes an often-overlooked crime against children, the tactics of online predators, and the voices of parents and law enforcement poised to stop online child exploitation in its tracks.

Module 1 is an introduction to Sextortion, the fast growing online crime.

Film Discussion Guide: What is Sextortion?

Module 2 tells the story of S.M., a victim of Sextortion.

Film Discussion Guide: The Story of S.M.

Module 3 tells the story of H.M., a victim of Sextortion.

Film Discussion Guide: The Story of H.M.

Poster: It's Called Sextortion.

So You Need Some Help...
Sextortion: What Parents Should Know
Into the Cloud: Season 2 Episode Guides

A teen girl is blackmailed into sending more explicit images and video to someone online she thought she knew.

Sextortion PSA

Season 2 of "Into the Cloud" tackles gaming and livestream safety, online enticement and blackmail, cyberbullying, and removing/reporting inappropriate content online. Ideal for kids 10 & under.

Into the Cloud- Season 2

Are you a parent or guardian looking for on-demand trainings related to prevention education? Check out NCMEC’s virtual child safety series, Parent Connect, available for free on NCMEC CONNECT. Topics include cyberbullying, online enticement, livestreaming, gaming, sexting, and more! 

Partner Resources

The No FILTR campaign seeks to increase awareness about self-generated content, change toxic attitudes around sexting, and equip youth with the knowledge and tools they need to resist online threats. No FILTR incorporates youth voices every step of the way to ensure content is appropriate and effective.

References

[1] Lenhart, A., Smith, A.., Anderson, M., Duggan, M., Perrin, A., “Teens, Technology and Friendships.” Pew Research Center, August, 2015. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/06/teens-technology-and-friendships/

[2]  http://www.missingkids.org/content/dam/pdfs/ncmec-analysis/Online%20Enticement%20Pre-Travel1.pdf