CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

FBI says more teenage boys in Utah being extorted by online predators

Apr 14, 2022, 8:03 PM | Updated: Dec 29, 2022, 11:42 am

(File photo: FBI headquarters in Salt Lake City.  Photo: Paul Nelson)...

(File photo: FBI headquarters in Salt Lake City. Photo: Paul Nelson)

(File photo: FBI headquarters in Salt Lake City. Photo: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal investigators say there is a troubling spike in the number of teenage boys getting sexually exploited and extorted by online predators.  They say victims are being tricked into sending sexually explicit images, then being blackmailed for money.

Online predators

Investigators say it’s a typical catfishing scam. However, the predators are targeting boys between the ages of 14 and 17 years old. That’s a group that officials say is especially vulnerable to this kind of tactic.  The suspects will pose as a teenage girl and befriend the boys online.  As they chat, the boys divulge personal information about themselves, like the names of their family members and where they go to school. 

Eventually, the conversation turns sexual. 

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Dustin Grant said, “Sometimes, they even send images that look like a young female, and in return, the boys are reciprocating images of themselves which then are used for extortion schemes, specifically for money.”

Grant says once the predators have the pictures or videos they want, they reveal themselves to their victims and demand money.  Since they have so much of their victim’s personal information, they can easily intimidate the boy they scammed.

“They threaten to send those videos, once they get them, to family members and friends if they do not send money,” Grant said.

Been around for some time

This kind of scam has been around for a long time. However, Grant says they’re seeing a sharp increase in the number of reports they’re receiving.  About three years ago, the FBI would get one or two reports of these extortion cases per month.  Now, they’re getting far more.

He said, “We’re probably getting five to 10 a week with these, now.  I think that’s generally what we’re seeing across the country.  So, it’s not just specifically Utah.”

Grant says not only are teenage boys more vulnerable to this kind of attack, but they’re also less likely to come forward when they’re victimized.

“I think it’s under-reported, actually.  I think there is a lot more of these happening in the public,” Grant said.

Agents are warning teens and their parents to be extremely selective of the information they post on social media.  They also say teens need to be extremely wary of anyone they meet for the first time online. And they should be especially suspicious if they meet someone through a game or an app, then are asked to speak privately on a different platform.  Investigators say photos and videos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Crime, Police + Courts

kansas city shooting...

NICK INGRAM Associated Press

2 adults are charged with murder in the deadly shooting at Kansas City’s Super Bowl celebration

The new charges come after two juveniles were charged for the Kansas City shooting last week.

12 hours ago

Police in Tooele, Utah, have arrested a 9-year-old child for allegedly shooting and killing an adul...

Adam Small

Tooele police arrest 9-year-old child in fatal shooting of adult relative

It's unclear if the child has been charged. Tooele police said there was at least one other person in the home at the time.

14 hours ago

Ruby Franke appears in a virtual court appearance....

Josh Ellis

Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt receive prison sentences for aggravated child abuse

Ruby Franke was sentenced to four terms of one-to-15 years in prison that will be served consecutively.

17 hours ago

Karen Crawford was last seen near Fashion Place Mall on Thursday Feb. 15, 2024. Any information can...

MARY CULBERTSON

Tooele County woman missing from Murray for 4 days

Karen Lee Crawford, 43, was last seen wearing a blue dress with white polka dots, a black softshell baggy coat, and silver flat shoes.

1 day ago

FILE: Purple flags at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. A Utah lawmaker says it's too easy for a rest...

Don Brinkerhoff

Domestic violence penalties would increase for restricted persons

HB166 would make domestic violence by a restricted person a second-degree felony, punishable by one year in jail.

1 day ago

Tayler Gutierrez, of Sandy, performs the Jingle Dress dance during an event to raise awareness for ...

Adam Small

Bill would continue funding Utah Murdered and Missing Indigenous Relatives Task Force

Native Americans account for 1.5% of Utah's population, but make up over 5% of the state's murder victims.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

FBI says more teenage boys in Utah being extorted by online predators