(WJHL) – The FBI Knoxville Field Office is warning the public about a rise in incidents involving sextortion of young children.

According to the release, a recent scheme involves predators posing as a young girl to convince a young boy – usually 14 to 17 years old – to engage in explicit activities by photo or video, while the predator secretly records them or saves the images.

The predator uses the explicit content in an attempt to extort the young victim for money or additional imagery to prevent the content from being posted online.

Sextortion is a crime and the coercion of a child by an adult to produce Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) carries heavy penalties and can include life sentences for the offender. FBI Knoville encourages victims to come forward to help law enforcement identify offenders, which may prevent other incidents of sexual exploitation.

“Sextortion can have a devastating impact on victims, and it can happen to anyone,” said Special Agent Joe Carrico of the FBI Knoxville Field Office. “While in the safety of their own home victims are being targeted by sexual predators on the very devices they use for homework, gaming, or simply communicating with friends.”

The FBI offers the following tips to protect you and your children online:

  • Be selective of what you share online, especially personal information and passwords.
  • Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Ignore or block messages from strangers.
  • Be aware that people can pretend to be anyone or anything online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
  • Be suspicious if you meet someone in a game or app and they ask to start talking on a different platform.
  • Be willing to ask for help. If you receive messages that don’t seem right, block the sender and report the behavior.

If you believe you or someone you may know is the victim of sextortion:

For more information visit https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/stop-sextortion-youth-face-risk-online-090319.