Heather knew there were adults on the Internet who preyed on kids, and she regularly warned her own four children about the dangers of talking to strangers online. Yet the 37-year-old married mom from Phoenix never thought she would ever fall victim to a growing Internet crime known as sextortion.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) classifies sextortion as a form of online blackmail where explicit images are used to extort additional photos, sexual favors, and sometimes money from victims. It can involve hacking into a victim’s computer or “catfishing” — where predators lure unsuspecting victims into online relationships and coerce them into sharing nude photos or videos. A 2016 report from the Brookings Institute found that sextortion is on the rise, and noted that isn’t “a matter of playful consensual sexting,” but rather “a form of sexual exploitation, coercion and violence.” (Source)