FBI warns about manipulation of photos, videos for sextortion schemes
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The FBI is warning the public about the manipulation of photos and videos to create explicit content and engage in sextortion schemes.
The agency has seen an increase in victims who report their photos and videos have been manipulated into explicit content since April of 2023. The victims are often minor children and non-consenting adults.
Once the photos and videos are manipulated, they often get posted on social media or pornographic websites for the purpose of harassing victims or for sextortion schemes, according to the FBI.
Authorities said the people responsible for manipulating the photos and videos often have several demands for victims. The demands include calls for a victim to make a payment using cash or gift cards. If the victim doesn’t pay up, they receive threats that the photos and videos will be shared with family members or on social media.
The FBI is urging the public to use caution when posting or sharing personal photos, videos, and identifying information on social media, dating apps, and other online sites.
The below recommendations were released by the FBI:
- Monitor children’s online activity and discuss risks associated with sharing personal content.
- Use discretion when posting images, videos, and personal content online, particularly those that include children or their information.
- Images, videos, or personal information posted online can be captured, manipulated, and distributed by malicious actors without your knowledge or consent.
- Once content is shared on the internet, it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to remove once it is circulated or posted by other parties.
- Run frequent online searches of you and your children’s information (e.g., full name, address, phone number, etc.) to help identify the exposure and spread of personal information on the internet.
- Apply privacy settings on social media accounts—including setting profiles and your friends lists as private—to limit the public exposure of your photos, videos, and other personal information.
- Consider using reverse image search engines to locate any photos or videos that have circulated on the internet without your knowledge.
- Exercise caution when accepting friend requests, communicating, engaging in video conversations, or sending images to individuals you do not know personally. Be especially wary of individuals who immediately ask or pressure you to provide them. Those items could be screen-captured, recorded, manipulated, shared without your knowledge or consent, and used to exploit you or someone you know.
- Do not provide any unknown or unfamiliar individuals with money or other items of value. Complying with malicious actors does not guarantee your sensitive photos or content will not be shared.
- Use discretion when interacting with known individuals online who appear to be acting outside their normal pattern of behavior. Hacked social media accounts can easily be manipulated by malicious actors to gain trust from friends or contacts to further criminal schemes or activity.
- Secure social media and other online accounts using complex passwords or passphrases and multi-factor authentication.
- Research the privacy, data sharing, and data retention policies of social media platforms, apps, and websites before uploading and sharing images, videos, or other personal content.
Victims can report a crime to the FBI by calling the number 1-800-225-5324. Crimes can also be reported by going to the agency’s internet crime complaint center.
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