ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque’s FBI field office is warning New Mexico teens and parents about an increase in the number of so-called “sextortion” cases. According to the FBI, that’s when suspects convince victims to take part in explicit sexual activity over social media, then use that media against the victims to gain more.

Nearly halfway through 2022, the Albuquerque FBI Division says it’s already received 107 reports of the sexual-extortion cases. The FBI’s data suggests a 143% increase in the number of reports between January and May of 2022, compared to the same time in the previous year. In 2021, Albuquerque’s FBI field office received 126 total reports, with just 44 coming between January and May 2021.

According to the FBI, suspects in sextortion cases often record or keep the sexually explicit content victims produce. With that material, the FBI says suspects, or predators try to get money, additional sexual material, or other things of value from the victim.

In response to the FBI’s concern of the situation becoming “more prevalent,” the Albuquerque field office has, in part, launched a new electronic billboard campaign with messages urging teens to be cautious online. The message reads, “the internet connects your kids to the world … be careful online this summer.” The billboard also features the FBI seal and Albuquerque Public Schools logo, alongside a link to an FBI website: fbi.gov/safekids.

The FBI says sextortion usually begins when an adult contacts a minor over an online platform used to meet and communicate, such as a game, app, or social media account. Typically, victims are between the ages of 14 to 17 years old.

Coercion of a child by an adult to produce sexually explicit media made by minor is what’s considered “Child Sexual Abuse Material, or CSAM, according to the FBI. The federal law enforcement agency says penalties for the crime can include up to a life sentence in prison.

Investigating sex crimes, the Albuquerque FBI Division created a Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force in April 2020. That unit is made up of representatives from the FBI, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office, New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, New Mexico State Police, and Albuquerque Police Department.

The FBI offers the following tips for parents and teens to protect themselves online:

  • Be selective about what you share online, especially your personal information and passwords. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you or your children.
  • Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
  • Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
  • Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
  • For parents and guardians: Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.

According to the FBI, If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:

  • Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
  • Tell law enforcement everything about the encounters you had online; it may be embarrassing, but it is necessary to find the offender.