Warning to parents about scam that starts with Facebook friend request

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — A northeast Ohio high school administrator, who wishes to remain anonymous, is warning parents and other districts about an online scam he’s seen his students fall victim to several times. “I just worry about students getting caught in difficult situations.”

He says it starts with a friend request on Facebook from what appears to be a student in another state and starts with seemingly innocent conversation getting to know the victim.

“Our high school kids are so happy to make friends and so conversational.”

WJW photo

After a while they talk about getting credit cards and then convinces the victim to exchange explicit photos.

“Then they will use that to turn the table on that particular student and say, I want money and I know you’ve got a credit card and I can tell you how to send me money and I want it right away or I’m gonna contact your friends, I’m gonna send everybody this information.”

Special Agent Vicki Anderson says the FBI is all too familiar with sextortion cases. “This is nothing new, unfortunately there’s lots of these bad people in the world and they send these friend requests to many teens at the same time just hoping somebody will take the bait.”

She says they’ve seen more of these types of scams during the pandemic. “Most often these are child predators you know they’re eventually wanting to either hopefully meet the child, it’s really usually not about the money or whatever they’re demanding.”

The FBI does monitor these instances and say if caught they can be charged with production of child pornography. “When they are identified, they are getting sentenced at a hefty load.”

The administrator hopes his red flag will help protect others. “At this point I just feel a great sense of responsibility to share what I know to keep others from being in a bad spot.”

He and the FBI encourage parents to have open and honest conversations with their children, and let them know they can come to you if they make a mistake.

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