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Uncovering America's methamphetamine history; PA Early Intervention programs vital for child development; measuring long-term impact of the O.J. Simpson trial on media literacy.

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President Biden's name could be left off the ballot in Alabama and Ohio, the Justice Dept. mandates background checks for gun show purchases, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds moves to allow state police to arrest undocumented migrants.

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Housing advocates fear rural low-income folks who live in aging USDA housing could be forced out, small towns are eligible for grants to enhance civic participation, and North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues.

'Explosion' of threats lure Hoosier kids into 'sextortion' cycle

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Monday, January 22, 2024   

The FBI is warning Hoosiers about an urgent, growing danger called "sextortion." Warning lights are flashing, alarm bells are blaring, and this is not a drill.

Online predators are targeting children, especially, boys between 14 and 17 years old with a scam known as sextortion. Here is how it works: Criminals use fake social media profiles and trick kids into exchanging sexually explicit videos or pictures.

Curtis Cox, special agent for the FBI, said once predators have the compromising images, the demands start.

"They're going to send those pictures to social media contacts, their friends, their family," Cox explained. "Obviously, that fear causes these kids to panic. Sometimes they attempt to make the payment and unfortunately, oftentimes, we see this fear, this anxiety, this panic, lead to self-harm."

Cox said the FBI recorded a 20% increase in cases over a span of six months. Indiana is not insulated against the sinister scheme. In fact, one of the messiest cases of sextortion targeted a young Hendricks County female nearly 10 years ago. Buster Hernandez was sent to federal prison after threats to kill, rape or kidnap nearly 375 people.

If you, or someone you know, may be a victim, contact investigators by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or online at tips.fbi.gov.

Cox stressed the FBI has a clear message about how to respond if a child, or someone you know, shares they have been targeted.

"To the parents, we want them to know that these kids are victims to very sophisticated criminals who know exactly what to say and what to do to get what they want," Cox outlined. "If your kid does report this to you don't judge; don't be angry. Look at them as a victim and help them get help."

Cox urged not falling into the trap of thinking the threats will stop if you meet demands. He added spreading awareness about the practice and immediately reporting it to law enforcement are the most effective methods to end the abuse.


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