More than 16,000 complaints over online sexual extortion were received by the FBI between January and July 2021, with the victims suffering losses of over $8 million, according to statistics that the FBI released at the end of last week. The trend can already be seen as an increase from last year when there were about 23,000 complaints in total from January to December.
According to the breakdown of the statistics that was released, almost half of the victims were in the 20-39 age group. The fewest number of complaints came from victims under the age of 20 (although this does not necessarily reflect reality, because many times young people who fall victim to sexual extortion do not file complaints, but rather cooperate with the blackmailer out of fear)
Most of the victims report that initial contact is made via dating apps and websites. Shortly afterward, the fraudster requests that the interaction be moved to a different platform such as one for messaging, where the blackmailer encourages the victim to send sexually implicit pictures or videos. After the victim complies, the fraudster blackmails the victim, threatening to release the material.
The statistics were published just before the three-day Labor Day weekend in the U.S., including the holiday itself on Monday, amid a recent increase in holiday weekend cyberattacks. At the end of last week, Anne Neuberger, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, warned of the possibility of such attacks during the Labor Day weekend, when security operation centers may be unmanned or understaffed, emphasizing the importance of taking comprehensive cybersecurity measures. The recent large-scale cyberattacks on Colonial Pipeline, meat producer JBS and software company Kaseya all occurred during holiday weekends.