NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It seems no one is safe online, even teens who are seemingly doing nothing wrong.
“What we’re seeing is these financially motivated threat actors are finding new ways to sextort victims and deep fake is one of those ways,” explains Rachel Ardohain Intelligence Analyst for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
These sextortion scams continue to evolve as parents and teens wise up to the current ways, which is why criminals are now using real pictures of teens and superimposing their faces on fake compromising images.
“This is a money scheme. They are not sexually gratified by these images,” Ardohain says, “The deep fake images are so real [looking]. They’re authentic.”
Middle Tennessee teens, afraid their parents and friends won’t believe the image is not them, pay up hoping the problem will go away.
“Generally, they get the funds through jobs that they work. We’ve even seen college funds being emptied because of sextortion,” Ardohain explains.
Most victims shell out a few hundred dollars, others pay thousands. But the mental trauma, Ardohain says, is far greater. “A lot of hopelessness, depression, and anxiety. Unfortunately, this is something I really want to bring awareness to. We’ve even had victims of sextortion commit suicide.”
Catching criminals and holding them accountable is very difficult.
“Most of the finically motivated threat actors we’re seeing are in fact overseas,” she says.
This is why the FBI fears this scheme is easily scalable with the ability to victimize teens who are unwilling to send a real compromising picture of themselves.
Teens are urged not to accept a friend request or start a conversation online with someone they do not know. Notify your parents immediately if you’re asked for a compromising picture, and always report the interaction to your local police department. Or submit a complaint to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.