BEDFORD HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has found police trying to help you protect your family from sextortion — a crime state and local law enforcement officials say is targeting teens.
FBI officials say thousands of teenagers nationwide were victims of this online crime in 2022.
“I am disgusted that they are attacking our children,” said Bedford Heights Police Officer Lyse Barnes. “This is why I feel it’s important for us to talk about it.”
Barnes, along with officials at Bedford, Warrensville and Maple Heights school districts, is presenting a seminar Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Bedford High School for parents.
In sextortion crimes, the suspect finds the victim online and pretends to be the same age. The suspect then convinces the victim to send sexually explicit photographs and then immediately starts demanding money.
Several local police departments say they have had an increase in sextortion crimes in the past year.
“At the seminar, we want to help teach parents what to do in these situations,” Barnes said. “We will have several resources. We are going to have an official with the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. We will also have Tim and Tamia Woods, with The Do It For James Foundation. They are coming on behalf of their son who committed suicide after being sextorted.”
Officials say there were more than a dozen suicides nationally linked to sextortion, including the tragic death of Streetsboro teen James Woods.
Streetsboro Police Chief Patria Wain tells the I-Team they have had four other cases of teens being sextorted and they believe the suspects in those cases live overseas.
“We want to continue urging any victims to go to a trusted adult and report what happened,” Wain said.
If anyone wants to attend the seminar but is unable to in person, they can watch online here.