Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a digital defense against sextortion crimes


PORTLAND, Oregon (KTVZ) – This week’s Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday segment focuses on building a digital defense against sextortion crimes.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) warns of a sharp increase in the number of sextortion complaints. Sextortion occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if their requests are not met. Often times, the fraudster demands additional sexual images, sexual favors, or money, which creates financial and emotional distress for the victim.

In the first seven months of this year, IC3 received over 16,000 sextortion complaints. The losses exceeded $ 8 million. Almost half of these extortion victims were in the 20-39 age group. Victims over 60 are also prime targets.

Most adult victims report that the first contact with the scammer is mutual and made using dating websites and apps. For children, contacts can come from online games or social media platforms that young people tend to use.

Shortly after the first encounter, the scammer requests that the interaction be moved from the website or app to another messaging platform. The fraudster threatens either that he already has embarrassing photos or that he incites the exchange of sexually explicit material. It often encourages the victim to participate via video chat or to send their own explicit photos.

Immediately after the victim complies, the scammer blackmails the victim and demands money to prevent the photos or videos from being posted on social media. It may also require more and more images. The scammer often accesses the victim’s social media accounts or contact details and threatens to send the images to the victim’s family and friends.

How to protect yourself:

  • NEVER send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are or who they claim to be.
  • Don’t open email attachments from people you don’t know. Links can secretly hack your electronic devices using malware to gain access to your private data, photos and contacts. There is also malware that can control your webcam and microphone without your knowledge.
  • Turn off your electronics and webcams when you’re not using them.

If you receive sextortion threats:

  • Remember that you are not alone as thousands of people fall victim to this scam.
  • Stop all interaction with the extortioner and don’t be embarrassed or afraid to contact law enforcement.

More information on the sextortion can be found here:

If you are the victim of online fraud, you should report the incident to the FBI Internet Crime Complaints Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.

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