The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is warning sailors to refrain from “sexting” or engaging in sexual activities online.
The Navy has seen an increase in sexual extortion stemming from the exchange of sexually explicit material online.
The crime, being dubbed ‘sextortion’, occurs when someone demands money in exchange for not releasing sexually explicit images or information.
According to the NCIS, at least 160 sailors and Marines have been targeted across the country since August of 2012.
Perpetrators typically charge their victims anywhere from $500 to $1500, resulting in the loss of about $45000 since 2012, according to the Navy Times.
“We’ve had service members individually pay as much as $11,000,” NCIS Division Chief Megan Bolduc said. “It only stops because credit cards were maxed out.”
The sextortion starts on social media dating sites when the perpetrator will the use the images of an attractive individual to lure their victims into sexual activity.
To establish a legitimate online profile, the perpetrator will friend request multiple service members in the same unit so the potential victims believe the perpetrator is real.
According to NCIS, many of the accounts are actually linked to the Philippines, making it difficult to catch or prosecute the criminals.
The perpetrators demand money be transferred to international accounts or they will release the pictures and/or videos of that service member’s sexual activity.
In addition to extorting sailors’ money, sextortion poses a security risk for the military as the perpetrators may request sensitive military information as payment.
NCIS encourages sailors to maintain a record of communication with the perpetrators because they have cyber agents who will attempt to track the electronic trail.
The Navy is spearheading the defense against sextortion for the Department of Defense. NCIS is working to distribute information to the entire DoD to help defend service members outside the Navy from this crime.
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