Sexual extortion is the fastest growing cybercrime in America, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports, stripping thousands of victims of their security, money and — in the tragic cases of more than twenty teen boys — their lives.


Online sextortion occurs when scammers solicit nude images of their victims through social media or another online social site, usually by posing as an attractive peer. The blackmailers then threaten to send the sensitive photos to the victims’ family and friends — unless they pay up.

Sextortion traditionally victimizes women and girls, with blackmailers turning illicit images into pornography or requiring sexual favors in exchange for keeping nude images private.

Since 2021, however, sextortion schemes have increasingly targeted men and boys for cold, hard cash. Officials call this crime “financial extortion”.

Why It Matters

Data from FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) show teen boys have become a bigger target for scammers over time, with devastating consequences.

National law enforcement received 7,000 reports of financial sextortion targeting minors in 2022, more than 40% of which targeted boys.

A broader analysis of 13,000 reports submitted to the FBI between October 2021 and March 2023, however, found a whopping 97% of cases involved boys.

The increased victimization of minors is particularly concerning given officials fielded more financial sexploitation reports in the last six months than ever before.

The DHS Cybercrime Center has received more than 8,000 cases in the last six months, deputy assistant director Mike Prado told The New York Times — more than three times the total number of cases received in 2022.

Jordan’s Story

Highschool student Jordan DeMay committed suicide in March 2022 after sending nude photos to an Instagram account appearing to belong to a woman.

In reality, the 17-year-old had messaged Samuel Ogoshi, the leader of an international sextortion ring based in Nigeria.

Within second of receiving DeMay’s explicit photos, The New York Post reports, Ogoshi started threatening him.

I can send this (sic) nudes to everyone and also send your nudes Until it goes viral. Just pay me [right now] and I won’t expose you.

DeMay reportedly sent Ogoshi $300 via a payment service like Venmo, but the scammer, who wanted $1,000, wasn’t appeased. Instead, he threatened to send DeMay’s pictures to his family and friends.

When DeMay told Ogoshi he was going to kill himself, the conman replied:

Good. Do that fast. Or I’ll make you do it. I swear to God.

In an interview with Fox News Digital more than a year later, DeMay’s dad, John, described his son’s death as a murder.

My son was smart. He was a good student. He was a great athlete. Someone came to his bedroom at 3 in the morning and murdered him through Instagram when we were all sleeping at night, and we had zero chance to stop it.

Jordan’s story illustrates the torment scammers will inspire to obtain even small amounts of money.

More horrifying? He’s far from alone. The FBI believes more than twenty boys have committed suicide because of  financial sextortion.

Solving Sextortion

Experts believe awareness and prevention, rather than prosecution, will best reduce sextortion cases.

Law enforcement agencies struggle to bring scammers to justice because they primarily work in foreign countries. The Times writes:

While there have been some arrests made abroad, the United States has no formal extradition agreement with many of the countries where the scammers are. Ivory Coast, which analysts at the Cyber Crime Center have located as the primary location of financial sextortion cases, has no such agreement.

Government entities offer broad assistance in helping kids recognize and avoid sextortion.

The FBI and DHS, in conjunction with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), offer ways to report sextortion crimes online. All three agencies have issued public warnings about the dangers of sextortion, in addition to teaching about the crime in schools and putting up visual warnings at major sports events.

Legislators are passing laws requiring social media companies to take a more active role in keeping children safe on their platforms.

At least eight states are pursuing social media age-restriction laws. President Biden signed a bill into law in May forcing social media companies to report evidence of child sex trafficking and “coercion or enticement” of children to participate in illegal sexual activities, in addition to child pornography

The Daily Citizen strongly supports all government efforts to assist parents in keeping children safe. But the biggest barrier between children and sexploitation isn’t the government or social media companies — it’s parents.

What Parents Can Do

First and foremost, parents should consider how much access their child should have to social media. Given what we know about social platforms’ addictive design, effects on developing brains, and tolerance of child abuse, the answer seems to be very little, if any at all.

While its easiest to put proactive restrictions on children’s social media access, its never too late to implement healthier social media habits. Don’t be afraid to be the “bad guy” — if your kids are anything like me, they will thank you later.

The Impact of Sexting

It’s impossible to talk about sextortion without the normalization of “sexting” — or sending nude images to romantic partners.

While many may struggle to understand why a tween or teen would send sexually explicit images to anyone, studies show young people believe “sending nudes” to be a relatively normal mode of communication.

A 2022 study of a nationally representative sample of nine- to 17-year-olds found one in four minors “agree it is normal for people their age to share nudes with each other.” One in seven surveyed minors further admitted to sending nude photos of themselves. Of this group, 33% suspected they had shared them with an adult.

If your child has access to social media or a smartphone, it’s important to emphasize the dangers of sexting and teach them to recognize predatory behavior. As outlandish as a scam might seem to you, your child’s exposure to the culture and norms of social media can cloud their ability to identify danger.

Make A Plan

The shame, guilt and fear associated with financial sextortion can cause a teen to make rash, harmful decisions. That’s why parents should not only warn their child about the possibility of sextortion but teach them what to do if they become trapped.

Remind them often that you are a safe place to go if they get in trouble.

Emphasize that the pictures, while embarrassing, are not life-ending. There are resources and support systems to help them through the aftermath of the mistake.

Stress that scammers are not trustworthy — they frequently share explicit photos even when a victim complies with their demands.

Social media exposes kids to a cabal of snares — some serious enough to take their life. Parental boundaries, guidance and compassion are kids’ most powerful weapon against this sinister enemy.

If you or a loved one is a victim of sextortion, click here to learn how to file a report.

Additional Articles and Resources

Four Ways to Protect Your Kids from Bad Tech, from Social Psychologist Jonathan Haidt

Social Psychologist Finds Smartphones and Social Media Harm Kids in These Four Ways

Horrifying Instagram Investigation Indicts Modern Parenting

‘The Dirty Dozen List’ — Corporations Enable and Profit from Sexual Exploitation

‘Big Tech’ Device Designs Dangerous for Kids, Research Finds

Survey Finds Teens Use Social Media More Than Four Hours Per Day — Here’s What Parents Can Do

The Harmful Effects of a Screen-Filled Culture on Kids

Social Media Age Restriction—Which States Have Them and Why They’re So Hard to Pass

REPORT Act Becomes Law

Plugged in Parent’s Guide to Today’s Technology