FBI seeing spike in 'sextortion' cases across country, VNL investigates local impact

Published: Sep. 26, 2019 at 4:05 PM CDT
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A warning tonight straight from the FBI. They're seeing a spike in the number of ‘sextortion’ cases involving kids and teenagers across the nation. That’s when someone convinces another person to take a nude picture of themselves and then demands something if they don't send more. It amounts to what we all know as blackmail.

As students are just getting comfortable in their classes and getting to know their fellow classmates, there's a growing threat on social media. It’s called ‘sextortion.’

"If you don't continue to do this, I’m going to publish this or if you don't continue to do this for me, I’m going to send it to your father," says Rape and Abuse Crisis Center CEO, Christopher Johnson.

And Christopher Johnson with the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center tells us he's very familiar with these types of cases. Once again, the finger is being pointed at social media.

"The stereotype from the 70's and the 80's was having candy or can you help me find my lost puppy? So this is just kind of a reboot of that but using technology," says Johnson.

It’s not just adults doing this with minors but it might be other students in your teenager’s school. For example, a 16-year old telling a 14-year old they will share their nude pictures on social media.

That's something Dana Strand with West Fargo Public Schools has seen firsthand.

"They come to us after the fact has happened, after the person is now using these pictures, sending them out, sharing them with other people, blackmailing them," says Liberty Middle School Counselor, Dana Strand.

Strand is a school counselor at Liberty Middle School. She has been working with students for a handful of years now and she tells us, students come in not only before they send the pictures but she's also seeing teens come in, realizing they've made a mistake and asking what to do about it.

Valley News Live: “So what should students do, should they come to you? Should they go to police?”

"All of the above," says Strand.

And a reminder, just having a nude picture of an underage teen is considered child porn. Now the people we talked to tell us the best way to avoid these sextortion cases is to stop them from happening. Although it can be an uncomfortable conversation, they want you to have it with your kids.

For parents looking to learn more about this and other ways social media is impacting teenagers, West Fargo Public Schools will be holding a student success forum on October 8th at 7 P.M. That’s happening at the Dakota Medical Foundation.

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