Organized crime targets children for ‘sexual extortion’

The feds are urging parents not to destroy images, texts of adults who demand cash, gift cards from minors they trick them into sending explicit photos.

EL PASO, TX (Border Report) – The practice of “sextortion” is reaching pandemic levels, federal officials say, as ruthless individuals and organized criminals perfect the art of manipulating children by sending explicit images of themselves and then demanding money or more images. under threat.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reported a nearly 50 percent increase in possible incidents of “sexual extortion” from 2019 to 2021 as the public spent more time in front of their electronic devices during the COVID-19 lockdown. In the El Paso sector, the National Security Investigation Service (HSI) registered more than 25 such cases last year. The age of the victims ranged from 9 to 17 years.

Some of the children are involved in online crime in West Africa, posing as minors, showering compliments on their new American friends and filling emotional or self-esteem voids, according to HSI officials.

The perpetrators eventually get down to business, begging for risqué photos and videos of the child; in some cases, they take the first step by sending such images not of their real self, but of a previous victim, in order to gain trust.

What follows is an emotional roller coaster in which the victims, both boys and girls, are forced to send small amounts of money ($50 to $100) or gift cards to stop the extortionist from sharing the images. But most of all, the ransomware demands increasingly obscene photographs, in some cases as keepsakes, in many cases for commercialization on the Internet.

Some children are known to have committed suicide before these images reach their social circles, classmates, parents or the dark web, HSI said.

“We encourage parents to communicate well with their children so they can get help when something like this happens,” said Jorge H. Uribarri, assistant special agent in charge of national security investigations in El Paso. “Let us track the perpetrators so you can connect with professionals who can help your child.”

Uribarri urges parents to make sure there is no public profile on their child’s social media and only respond to friend requests from those they know. In addition, the prerogative of parents is to keep abreast of the activity of the child on the Internet.

HSI hosts a conference on human trafficking and child exploitation Wednesday at the El Paso Community College Administrative Services Center, 9050 Viscount Blvd. nineth The annual conference is primarily designed to help law enforcement and victim service providers identify and assist victims of crimes that are underreported by suspected authorities. It coincides with January 11, which is National Trafficking in Persons Awareness Day.

“We’re working with community organizations, with school counselors, to make sure the parents of these kids know they have help available,” another HSI spokesperson said, speaking in the background. “Our goal is to be victim-oriented.”

A parent’s first impulse to learn that their child has been the victim of “sexual extortion” may be to delete images, conversations, and message threads. HSI officials are urging parents not to destroy evidence so law enforcement can track down the perpetrator. This, they say, will also protect other children from persecution.

This is because the practice of “sextortion” is evolving. HSI officials said the perpetrators systematically go through their victim’s friends or contacts list to identify additional potential targets. They also look for vulnerabilities, such as whether the victim has reported her concerns about an eating disorder, whether she has reported school club membership, or whose communications indicate she is feeling lonely or depressed.

Some investigators describe “sexual extortion” of minors as a heinous crime that affects young victims. They describe prosecutions in which children sent torturous messages such as: “Please, do not do that!” when they can’t get more money for their abuser. According to investigators and lawyers, this is another reason for parents to console their child and contact law enforcement.

For additional resources, parents (or children) can call the national human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888, NCMEC at 1-800-843-5678, HSI at 1-866- 347-2423 or dial 911. Online, they can visit www.missingkids.com

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