SALT LAKE CITY — The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Salt Lake City reports that they're seeing an "overwhelming" amount of "sextortion" cases being filed in Utah, with most of them involving young boys.
"The kids are here, but [that] doesn't necessarily mean the offenders are here as well," explained FBI Salt Lake City supervisory special agent Dustin Grant. "They're most likely oversees, some of them are domestic."
"Sextortion" is when an adult contacts a minor over any online platforms and uses deception to get inappropriate photos and content from the minor. In recent schemes, the FBI reports that predators have been posing as a young girl and convincing teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 17 to engage in explicit activity over video, which is recorded by the predator.
After explicit content is recorded, the predator may blackmail the teenager into giving them money in order to prevent the videos from being posted online.
Grant described that the amount of cases flooding into their office is "just overwhelming." The FBI in Salt Lake City alone is getting five to ten of these types of cases a week. That doesn't count the cases that get filed with local police departments and sheriff's offices.
"Two years ago, that wasn't happening hardly as often," Grant said. "We'd maybe get one and most of them are involving young boys."
The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that in 2021, they received over 18,000 sextortion-related complaints nationwide.
Investigators haven't quite nailed down why there's been such a large increase in these types of cases, especially among young boys.
"It's not one particular app, it's not one particular website, we're seeing it across all kinds of platforms that kids regularly use on a daily basis," Grant said. "I don't know, it could be a byproduct of COVID with an enormous amount of more kids being on the internet and offenders realizing that."
Grant is calling on parents to be more aware of what their child is doing online, and monitoring their activity on different social platforms.
He also emphasized the importance of reporting these types of incidents to authorities immediately. Incidents involving minors are sometimes not reported because victims feel ashamed or embarrassed.
"That segment of the population is sometimes more difficult to get complaints and referrals from just because they're not likely to disclose the information that's happening to them," Grant explained. "There is help you're not alone and we can potentially maybe identify some of the individuals who are doing this."
To report an incident, contact the Salt Lake City FBI at (801) 579-1400 or local police. Do not delete any evidence before officials are able to review it.