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‘Keep private things private’: FBI warns Kansas City of sextortion schemes targeting boys

Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 8:59 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 28, 2022 at 10:32 AM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The FBI is urging parents of teenage boys to have a serious talk with their kids about sextortion. Sextortion is a nasty business. The FBI defines it as “a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money.”

It can start simply enough—often with an online conversation. The platform used varies. It could be a game, application, or other social media outlet. When a boy is targeted, the predator often pretends to be a young girl.

“They’ll try to befriend you and groom you to try to start a relationship with you,” said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Craig Tremaroli. “And what happens is the relationship is great. It’s somebody that you have confided in and built a relationship that you trust and then it progresses. Hey, send me a nude photo.”

The predator then threatens to share the picture with the victims’ friends and family, or post them on social media—unless the victim pays. Teenaged boys are a growing target for predators and consequences can be deadly.

Jordan DeMay, a Marquette Senior High School student who died by suicide last week was a victim...
Jordan DeMay, a Marquette Senior High School student who died by suicide last week was a victim of internet sextortion, investigators say.(DeMay Family)(KCTV5 staff)

It was for Jordan DeMay.

Jordan lived in Minnesota. A simply online conversation with a stranger took a turn. Jordan sent the requested photo. The predator on the other end demanded money—or else.

“He sent them money, but it wasn’t enough,” said Marquette, MN, Sheriff Greg Zybert. “They wanted more.”

Jordan didn’t have more money. A friend of Jordan’s was sent the compromising photo and alerted Jordan’s parents, but it was too late. Within six hours of sending the photo to the predator, Jordan was dead. He had committed suicide.

While suicides are usually kept private, Jordan’s family and the sheriff went public about what happened. They wanted to warn others about the dangers. The FBI is now sounding the alarm. It’s a crime. What these predators are soliciting is child pornography. The extortion increases the criminal penalties.

“Parents need to be heavily involved with their kids in their online presence and talk to them about the vulnerabilities of predators--in our communities, in this country and worldwide,” said Tremaroli.

The FBI provided these tips for online use:

  • Be selective about what you share online, especially your personal information and passwords. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you or your children.
  • Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
  • Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
  • Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
  • Encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.

“So the biggest thing for our children is understand that even though you may see a relationship as one to one, anything that you send for anything on your devices, or on a video game is forever gone,” said Tremaroli. “It can be published for everyone to see. Keep private things private. Never publish or send any material that you don’t want everyone to see.”

Last year, the FBI received over 18,000 sextortion-related complaints, with losses over $13.6 million. If you believe you’ve been the victim of sextortion, contact the local FBI office or tha National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Don’t delete any messages or other material before law enforcement can review it, and even though you think it is embarrassing, tell investigators everything about your interactions. It will help find the offender.