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Sexual Extortion: What You Need To Know


In our increasingly online world, sexual extortion is on the rise across the country and in New Jersey. Sexual extortion, or “sextortion,” occurs when offenders obtain private and sensitive material, such as nude photos, and then threaten to release the material unless the victim provides something in return, such as sex acts, sexually explicit images, or money. Sexual extortion can also happen when offenders threaten the victim in order to obtain sexually explicit images or to force the victim to engage in sex acts. Sexual Extortion most often originates online. For example, an online predator may tell a teen that they will harm their friends and family unless the teen sends them sexually explicit images. However, it can also occur offline, like a landlord threatening a vulnerable tenant with eviction unless they engage in sexual acts with the landlord. Despite its growth, sexual extortion is underreported because perpetrators use victims’ feelings of shame and embarrassment to keep them victimized.

The FBI recommends the following to help keep you safe:

  • Be wary of people you meet online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
  • Don’t send compromising images of yourself, no matter who the recipient is or who they say they are.
  • Be selective with the personal information you share online and through social media, especially if your accounts are public (visible to everyone).
  • Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know.
  • Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
  • If you are a parent, encourage your children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.
  • If you are being sexually extorted, don’t delete anything on your phone or other digital devices until law enforcement is able to review it.

If you believe you are a victim of sexual extortion, you are not alone. Under New Jersey law, sexual extorters can face criminal charges if you report to local law enforcement. There is also new law working its way through the New Jersey legislature that would increase the penalties for sexual extortion. If you are or know a minor who is a victim of sexual extortion, you can also reach out to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or FBI - Tips. Tenants who are being sexually extorted by their landlord are encouraged to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey at 855-281-3339. If you have questions about sexual extortion, please reach out to the PROTECT Anti-Trafficking Initiative at 844-576-5776.