COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – The FBI Columbia Field Office issued a warning Wednesday to parents and caregivers about a rise in sextortion of children over the internet.
According to the FBI, predators threatened children via the internet to post their images online if the child does not send them money.
Officials said it is an illegal crime for adults to ask for, pay for or demand images from a minor. Offenders could face penalties up to life in prison.
According to officials, reports showed an increase of adults posing as adolescents on social media and online gaming systems. The most targeted group are boys ranging from 14 to 17.
Officials said they believe children are afraid to report these incidents because of the response of their caregiver or the threat by the criminal.
“The victims of these crimes may be afraid to come forward, so it’s important to have
open discussions with your children about their activities online,” said FBI Columbia.
Law enforcement said it may be embarrassing, but it is necessary to tell everything about the online encounter in order to find the offender.
The FBI offered the following tips to better protect children online:
- Be selective about what you share online. 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 communicate with them on a different platform
- Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
Anyone that is a victim of sextortion, can contact the FBI Columbia Field Office at (803) 551-4200 or The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.