Imagine you’re a 14 year-old boy and you meet someone online purporting to be a girl who says they like you and asks you to send a revealing explicit photo.

If that photo is sent, then that child is ripe for the crime of ‘financial sextortion’, and it’s happening all over the country with over 7,000 reports and over 3,000 victims reported, resulting in over a dozen suicides.

Financial Sextortion has Affected over 3,000 Victims and More Than a Dozen Suicides

KGVO News spoke to the U.S. Attorney for the State of Montana, Jesse Laslovich, who provided an exclusive interview detailing this shocking and dangerous scheme.

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“Financial ‘sextortion’ crimes typically involve the targeting of minor children and in particular boys,” began Laslovich. “What happens is the predators pretend to be females around the 14 to 18-year-old range, establish a relationship and rapport via the internet, and then they ultimately convince the minor boy to send a sexually explicit picture of himself. After they do that, then the (perpetrator) turns around and says if you don't send me money or send gift cards, then we're going to show this to everyone.”

Parents, Reach out to Your Children and Talk about This

Laslovich detailed what happens to the young male victim, and how parents and caregivers can get involved.

“What it’s done is sadly, you have these boys who think they've done something wrong,” he said. “Either they're going to succumb and get gift cards and send them to the perpetrators, or, in some rare instances, unfortunately, we've had kids who have committed suicide; not in Montana, but in other parts of the country. So it's an effort to get the word out to parents in particular and young adults to be on the lookout for their loved ones for situations such as this.”

Laslovich said it’s important to the investigation that once the crime has come to light, that the victim not simply delete the contact, but just to block the sender, which will allow authorities to track them down.

“The one thing that could help an investigation, in addition to calling us, is instead of just deleting your account, just block the person who you were talking to and sending the pictures to,” he said. “The reason for that is if you delete it, everything goes away, and then we won't be able to track down the predator or at least combine that with another investigation, however, if it's blocked, then it's still preserved. So that's another thing.”

Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for Help

For those young people who are victims of this ‘sextortion’ scheme, there is an organization that can actually help remove the photos from the internet.

“In the event that those pictures or videos are out there, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children can help get them removed. They have the resources to do so, and that’s yet another reason to get them involved so that the victim doesn't continue to be a victim.”

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office, here are the specific steps to take if this happens to your child.

First, REPORT the predator’s account via the platform’s safety feature. Second, BLOCK the predator, and DO NOT DELETE the profile or the messages, because they can be helpful to law enforcement in identifying and STOPPING THEM. Let NCMEC (National center for Missing and Exploited Children) help get explicit images of you off the internet. Remember, the predator is to blame, not your child or you.

Click here to learn how ‘sextortion’ works and how to talk to your children about it.

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