Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please text or call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 800-273-8255.

There is a new online scheme targeting adolescent boys, and it is having fatal consequences. In 2022, law enforcement agencies reported that 3,000 minors were victimized by online sexual extortion, also referred to as sextortion, with the majority of them being boys. Over 7,000 young people have been targeted according to reports from law enforcement agencies. Of those who were victimized, over one dozen of them have died by suicide.

And the numbers of victims continue to rise. According to one FBI source, 3 boys in Georgia have committed suicide in response to a sextortion scheme in the last few months. In January of this year, the FBI, in partnership with Homeland Security and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), issued a safety alert, stating that there has been an “explosion” of incidents where teens and children are being victimized by sextortion schemes.

The scammers begin by masquerading as young women on social media who reach out pretending to be interested in romantic relationships. The scammers will send sexually explicit photos, eventually convincing the victim to send explicit photos of themselves. Almost immediately, the scammers will begin threatening to release their photo(s) to their friends and family or publicize them in some other manner if they do not send more photos or money via cash apps like Venmo and others. Unfortunately, no matter how many photos, or how much money, the victims send, the scammers will continue to harass them.

These scams are happening on all social media platforms. The scammers will use “vanish mode,” a feature that deletes messages once they are read, to convince the victim that their images are safe. However, the scammers use another device to record the messages.

Scammers are targeting young people in the United States from all over the world. In May, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan, Mark Totten, announced that he will be extraditing three men from Nigeria for allegedly extorting teen boys. One of their victims was a 17-year-old boy named Jordan DeMay who died by suicide in March 2022 as a result of the sextortion scheme.

The FBI reminds the public that young people who are being exploited are victims of a crime and that the crime needs to be reported. You can call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at

NCMEC further reminds parents that there are steps that can be taken if they or their child are a victim of sextortion, including:

  • Remember, the predator is to blame, not your child or you.
  • Get help before deciding whether to pay money or otherwise comply with the predator. Cooperating or paying rarely stops the blackmail and continued harassment.
  • REPORT the predator’s account via the platform’s safety feature.
  • BLOCK the predator and DO NOT DELETE the profile or messages because that can be helpful to law enforcement in identifying and stopping them.
  • Let NCMEC help get explicit images of you off the internet.
  • Visit to learn how to notify companies yourself or visit to report to NCMEC for help with the process.
  • Ask for help. This can be a very complex problem and may require help from adults or law enforcement.
  • If you don’t feel that you have adults in your corner, you can reach out to NCMEC for support at [email protected] or call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST.

According to the FBI’s safety alert, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and law enforcement partners are imploring parents to talk about sextortion schemes with their kids. They believe that parents are on the frontlines of preventing this crime, along with the unnecessary loss of life. You can also attend Street Grace’s upcoming Keeping Kids Safe in the Digital Age training to learn more about how you can protect kids from becoming victimized.

Friends of Gavin Guffey, a 17-year-old sextortion victim who committed suicide in July 2022, spray-paint a rock with a message for all adolescents: “Tomorrow Needs You.”

Support Street Grace’s ongoing efforts to keep kids safe by donating today!  Click HERE to donate.

– Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI]. (2019). FBI launches sextortion awareness campaign in schools: Youth should be on guard online.
– Karimi, F. (2023). He lost his son to suicide after a ‘sextortion’ scam. Now this lawmaker is fighting to save other teens. Cable News Network [CNN]. – –
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children [NCMEC]. (2023). Is your explicit content out there?
– United States Attorney’s Office Southern District of Indiana. (2023). FBI and partners issue national public safety alert on sextortion schemes.
– United States Attorney’s Office Western District of Michigan. (2023). Three Nigerian men awaiting extradition for committing sexual extortion: Charge for causing the death of a 17-year-old Marquette boy.