Jim Fisher

Those of you with teenagers in your circle of loved ones need to pay attention to this one. According to the FBI, there has been an alarming increase in teenagers, mostly boys, being extorted (aka “sextorted”) for money after being tricked into sending sexually explicit pictures. I hope you will take the time to understand how this works and share this information with your loved ones.

This horrible scam is believed to originate (as with so many other scams) in Nigeria which has a horrible reputation for not enforcing international laws against this kind of activity. The scammer will create a fake identity of an attractive teenage female on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, or gaming platforms such as Twitch and Discord.

The “hot girl” scammers will then befriend teenagers, gain their trust through messages, get the hormones raging, then offer to exchange dirty pictures. This is the modern version of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” Once the scammer has collected a few pictures, they will then extort the teenager by threatening to send all the dirty pictures to their friends unless they pay a ransom, usually in the form of gift cards.

This has evidently happened to about 3,000 kids in 2022 which is a tenfold increase over previous years. The victims are mostly between 14 and 17 years old. About a dozen of those victims committed suicide.

So what can a parent or grandparent do to prevent this from happening to their loved one? Nothing new here; we have to keep a close eye on our kids and we have to let them know that this happens. So many of us parents are ignorant of the dangers that await our kids when we hand over the keys to the internet and let our kids freely roam around. Heck, even many of my very adult Facebook friends fall for hot girl scams. We ought to know better.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a tech guru to protect your kids. There are free parental controls that can be implemented on almost all smartphones, tablets, and laptops. More advanced tools will inform you of literally everything your child does on the internet. The details of how to do all this are a little much for this little column but the main thing you need to know is that these options exist and it’s your job to figure out the best one to implement.  I know I don't have to inform either of my readers that there will never be a substitute for a watchful eye from a loving parent, but here’s your reminder.

Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Florence. Reach him at www.ExcelAL.com