SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Federal Bureau of Investigations wants parents and the public to know about an uptick in “sextortion” schemes targeting teens in southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana.

According to a statement released Tuesday by FBI offices in Little Rock and New Orleans, investigators have received numerous reports of predators posing as children on social media to coerce minors into sending sexually explicit videos of themselves and then extorting money from the underage victims.

The FBI says alarming increases in these schemes occurring in El Dorado, Magnolia, and Monticello grabbed the attention of the Little Rock bureau. The New Orleans bureau monitors similar schemes targeting children in northwest Louisiana, specifically the Shreveport area.

There have been numerous reports of online predators who pose as children on social media, game apps and sites, and develop relationships with unassuming young people.

Sextortion is best described as luring a person into online sexual activity through images, video, or live simulations via webchat. The criminal then uses the sexual photos to extort money from the victim.

FBI officials say that these scammers are sophisticated and sinister in their tactics. They use manipulation, blackmail, coercion, and threats of violence to get money out of young victims who live in fear that their private shame will be made public.

The scheme is disturbing but straightforward.

  • A predator pretending to be a juvenile uses deception and manipulation to convince a minor victim – usually between 13-17-years-old to engage in sexual activity via video chat.
  • The videos or images are secretly recorded and saved by the predator.
  • The predator then reveals they have saved the recordings and attempts to extort money from the juvenile victim by threatening to post the videos on various social media pages.
  • The predator may ask for bank account login information or request gift cards to receive money.

How does a child gain access to the family’s banking information? FBI Public Affairs Officer for the Arkansas Bureau, Connor Hagan, says that information is more accessible to kids than parents may think.

“Parents frequently have no idea that this is going on,” Hagan said. “They will tell them to get access to banking info, credit, and debit card numbers, even Amazon Prime passwords when parents are distracted or not around.”

Sextortion is a crime that thrives in secrecy. Hagan says the victims of sextortion feel alone and believe the lies that they are told by those who extort them.

The FBI works with state, local, and other federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute these crimes which domestic and international criminals perpetrate.

They can not bring them to justice without victims coming forward, but the private nature of these crimes often makes the victim feel alone.

“No extortion victim should ever feel alone. Hopefully, we can bring these blackmailers to justice,” Hagan said. “When they feel alone, they don’t realize there is an army of investigators and people who want to help.”

The FBI also provided tips for parents looking to protect their children from online predators.

  • Everyone should be wary of anyone they encounter online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
  • People can pretend to be anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
  • Be highly suspicious of anyone you meet on a game or app asks you to start communicating with them on a different platform.
  • Encourage children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.

“Never share intimate images or video – ever,” Hagan said.

If you know someone who may be a victim of sextortion in the ArkLaTex:

  • Contact FBI Little Rock at 501-221-9100 or FBI New Orleans at 504-816-3000
  • Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
  • Tell police investigators everything about the online encounters. Reporting sextortion may be embarrassing, but finding and stopping the predator is necessary.