Kids & teens coerced into sending pornographic images of themselves by online predators

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-03 06:27:37-04

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns of the widespread and increasing issue of sextortion among children and teens as many of them are out of school for the summer and spending more time online.

"These online predators, they're master manipulators," said Hector Feliciano, resident agent-in-charge for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Sextortion is a form of sexual exploitation that often occurs online. Kids and teens are coerced into sending pornographic pictures and videos of themselves to online predators, who usually pose as someone they know or as a friendly teenage stranger. The predator then uses those images as blackmail to get more images from the victim.

"It can get really egregious," said Amy Allen, a forensic interview specialist with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who has interviewed more than 100 sextortion victims.

"We've had targets that have made victims produce a video every single night before they go to bed," she added.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports a 150 percent increase in the number of sextortion reports from its CyberTipline between 2014-2016.

"It's a pretty serious crime," said Feliciano.

Feliciano said victims who are under the age of 18 are rarely charged in sextortion cases. It's the online predators who face the punishment.

Those predators use a variety of social media apps, like Live.Me, Kik and even Facebook, to extort pictures and videos from young victims, which often come as a surprise to their parents.

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"They have no idea that there was somebody that was 'sextorting' their child," said Allen. "That is usually a huge surprise to them."

The news often comes only after the predator has shared the child's images across the internet, and child pornography investigators find them.

"Your kid can be a really good kid," added Allen. "Your kid can be a straight 'A' student, and this is still happening to them. They will conceal this, they will keep it a secret based on the fear that somebody will find out that they have taken images of themselves. "

Homeland Security encourages anyone who believes they've been a victim of sextortion to contact them at 1-866-DHS2-ICE.