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What is 'sextortion' and how are cases impacting Arkansas children?

Officials with the Little Rock FBI are warning of a dangerous scam called 'sextortion' that's seeing an increase in cases throughout the state.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Little Rock FBI is warning of a dangerous scam called 'sextortion' that the state is starting to see more cases of.

"Be very wary in this age and in this area with whom you communicate. It is certainly concerning, I think it's concerning around the United States and it's concerning in the state of Arkansas," Special Agent in Charge, James Dawson said. 

'Sextortion' refers to the coercion of a minor by an adult to produce child sexual abuse material.

"We'd like to prevent that as much as possible and hold people accountable who prey upon children. That is just utterly despicable,"  Special Agent Dawson said. 

Unfortunately, it's a trend that's on the rise here in Arkansas and has authorities in the state concerned.

"Given that this is a new pattern used by predators, we've seen probably a 100-200% increase in the state of Arkansas over what we've seen in outlying years," Special Agent Dawson said.

This new pattern involves predators reaching out through social media or an online game to a minor, which is usually a young boy between the ages of 13 and 17.

From there, the predator will ask the minor to send sexual videos of themselves, which they later use as leverage for money from the minor and their family.

"You should probably assume that this is an adult that you're communicating with and they may have nefarious purposes for their communication with you," Special Agent Dawson said. 

To help prevent this, Special Agent Dawson urges parents to talk with their kids, and encourage them to come forward if something happens. 

He said there's a sense of embarrassment that children may feel which could prevent them from speaking out.

In the event that your family falls victim to the scam, he said to call the FBI Little Rock Field Office at (501) 221-9100, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).

"We do want them to come forward. We need to be able to hold these people accountable and break this cycle of victimhood. The way to do that is to impose significant consequences upon those that are engaged in this illicit activity and the targeting of children," Special Agent Dawson said.

If convicted, penalties for this range anywhere between 10 years in prison to life in prison, according to Special Agent Dawson.

   

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