LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) –The FBI says online predators have come up with a new way to exploit children, and scam them at the same time.
Sexploitation is on the rise in several areas in Louisiana, including right here in Acadiana.
The FBI says this startling increase in attempts to take advantage of kids online sexually and taking their money is happening in Alexandria, Monroe, and Lafayette.
There’s no clear reason why Louisiana is being targeted, but the FBI says everyone has access to social media no matter where they are.
“The way that we look at it, it’s a blackmail scheme,” said Connor Hagan, FBI Public Affairs Officer.
“These juveniles are being targeted. They are put in a situation where they believe they have no one to turn to. When they are at this dark-cornered space, that’s when the criminals really strike.”
This is how the sexploitation scam works: A predator goes online, and pretends to be teenager. He/she gets into a sexually explicit activity in a video chat, and records it. Hagan says a predator would normally ask for more videos or pictures from the victim.
However, here’s where the stakes are more costly. He/she then threatens to post the recording on social media, and forces the child to send money or gift cards to prevent the embarrassment.
“Credit card information from the juvenile’s parents, bank account information, the log in for the family’s amazon account. This is a truly despicable crime.”
“You’re going to have to do x, y, and z, or I will release images, or someone’s going to be hurt. That’s a form of force and coercion.” said Linsey Boudreaux, a counselor at Hearts of Hope Center for Sexual Trauma.
“These kids are in a situation where they have to do it, or the whole world will see these images. They are to believe to believe that’s what’s going to happen to them.”
The FBI advises to be careful about meeting people online, especially when playing a video game, or when the person asks you to switch to another app or platform to start a conversation. Block or ignore message from strangers. If you or someone you know is a victim of this scam, call the FBI. Don’t delete any material from the conversation with the predator, no matter how embarrassing, so it can be used as evidence in the criminal investigation.