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LMPD, FBI investigates exploitation scam targeting boys

"Some people want to say, no social media. Cut it out. That is not realistic...If you empower the situation and come in front of it that would be best."

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Several teenage boys in Louisville have been victims in a scam in which they are coerced into sending explicit images of themselves, then blackmailed into sending the scammer money, officials have said.

Louisville Metro Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a video Tuesday, warning parents to monitor their children's social media accounts.

LMPD Officer Beth Ruoff said the scammers represent themselves as a teenage girls to convince them to send nude pictures, targeting boys under the age of 18.

"Once the images are sent, it extorts them and tells them to please send money to Cash App," Ruoff said. "If they don’t send money to the Cash App, there's the threat that this person will release those images to their friends, family and schoolmates."

Stacy Sanders, victim specialist with the FBI, said the conversations start on Instagram, then transition to Snapchat.

"The people behind this scheme screenshot victim’s Instagram account and their followers," Sanders said. "Once they receive payment, they ask for more money."

The scammers then send the explicit images to their followers on Instagram, regardless if they received money or not she said.

While this scam targets boys under the age of 18, there are similar scams targeting young females on those platforms Sanders said.

The people behind this scheme are believed to be outside of the U.S., making investigations very difficult to successfully prosecute, officials said.

The FBI and LMPD urge parents to monitor their children’s social media and to talk to their children about the scams. 

How do I talk with my kids about this?

Kosair Charities Child Advocacy Center Director Rebecca League has helped children impacted by abuse throughout her 16 years at the center. 

Some of those children include victims of this recent scam.

"We have some teenagers including my own like, 'I'm not dumb, I'm not going to fall for that.' But that's the thing," she said. "When you least expect it is when something like that can happen."

Knowing the impact, she said it's best for parents to get ahead of it and act calmly. 

"Some people want to say, no social media. Cut it out. That is not realistic," she said. "If you empower the situation and come in front of it that would be best."

If you need additional advice or would like to access free services at the Child Advocacy Center, you can call 1-800-752-6200 (Kentucky) or 1-800-800-5556 (Indiana).

An article from Norton Children's expands on how to talk with your children. It said, "Talk openly about personal responsibility, personal boundaries, and how to resist peer pressure. Conversations like this should happen often — not just when problems arise." 

If you feel that your child may be the victim of such a scam, you are asked to reach out to the FBI using the tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI or report it online.

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