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What Is Sextortion?

Sextortion: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It’s Serious

Sextortion occurs when someone convinces a victim under 18 years of age to provide sexually-explicit images, sexual favors, or money. It may also involve threatening to harm victims’ friends or relatives by obtaining information from their electronic devices unless they comply with the perpetrator’s demands.

Sextortion can primarily affect young people from all backgrounds, as it is easy to fall victim to such offenses, according to the FBI. For instance, online perpetrators may gain a victim’s trust by ‘catfishing’ them, which is pretending to be someone they’re not by adopting a fake online identity. From there, perps reportedly lurk in chat rooms and record minors who post or live-stream sexually explicit images and videos of themselves. Perpetrators may also use malware to hack into young people’s electronic devices and obtain their files, control their web cameras, and control their microphones without them knowing.

Oftentimes, perpetrators contact minors through online games, apps, or social media platforms and convince them to produce sexually explicit images or videos by using the following tactics:

  • Deception
  • Manipulation
  • Harassment
  • Threats
  • Money
  • Gifts
  • Flattery

The FBI has seen some cases where the perpetrator initially threatens the victim by saying that they have a sexually-explicit video or image that they will circulate with the public unless the victim sends more sexual content.

However, the Bureau typically sees sextortion begin by young people falling prey to ‘catfishers’ by communicating with someone (the perpetrator) who appears to be their own age and interested in a relationship or offering something of value. Once the young person sends sexual images or videos of themselves, the perpetrator may threaten them by saying they will share or publish the minor’s content unless the minor sends more.

What to Do If You Are Accused of Sextortion

Sextortion is a crime because it’s against the law for an adult to ask for, pay for, or demand graphic content from a minor, whether it be images, videos, or text. As soon as an adult asks a young person for sexually graphic content, they have committed a crime.

With this in mind, we understand that the internet can be a dangerous place. Maybe you thought you were contacting an adult over 18 years old all along or someone may have even used your photos and information to ‘catfish’ minors. Maybe your actions were intentional in the moment, but you strongly regret committing them looking back. Whatever your situation is, we have your back. Our job is to help good people overcome bad situations, which is why you can count on the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. to help you get back on track.

We proudly serve clients throughout Santa Rosa. Contact us at (707) 418-5352 to learn about your legal options!