Last month, Atlanta’s FBI Field Office warned of a 700% rise in sextortion cases across Georgia
Washington D.C. — U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is continuing his work to protect children in Georgia from abuse.
Today, in a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Ossoff pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray to address schemes targeting children online amidst a reported 700% increase in their frequency since 2021 in Georgia.
Last month, several news outlets across Georgia reported the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office warned that sextortion schemes in Georgia have risen by a staggering 700% since 2021. In these schemes, children and teens are coerced into sending explicit images online and then extorted for additional explicit material or money, according to the FBI.
“You and I have spoken before about the dangerous increase in the frequency of sextortion crimes targeting children, young children who are lured or targeted to share compromising or explicit photos and then blackmailed, or bullied, or worse on the basis of that content. Senator Blackburn and Senator Grassley and I have together moved legislation through this committee aimed at helping prevent the sexual abuse of children online,” Sen. Ossoff said to FBI Director Wray. “Your Field Office in Atlanta recently again highlighted sextortion as a particular concern in Georgia. The Atlanta field office said that these schemes have increased in frequency by 700% since 2021. Can you please provide an update on the FBI’s overall efforts to investigate and prevent these crimes targeting children online?”
Director Wray said that the FBI is aggressively investigating these cases and stressed the importance of working with families and other stakeholders such as National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to raise awareness so teenagers know that they can access resources and get help.
In September, Sens. Ossoff and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) launched an inquiry with Attorney General Merrick Garland about the FBI’s capacity to investigate and respond to crimes involving child sexual abuse and exploitation, highlighting a June 2023 report to Congressin which the DOJ cited an international threat assessment demonstrating that “the growth in online child sexual exploitation is outpacing our ability to respond.”
In June, Sen. Ossoff’s bipartisan legislation with Sen. Blackburn to improve reporting of child sexual abuse and exploitation online passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Earlier this year, Sen. Ossoff’s bipartisan bill with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to strengthen Federal protections against the sexual abuse of children, including online exploitation, passed the U.S. Senate.
SEN. OSSOFF: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Director Wray, good to see you again. And you know, I never fail to mention that Georgia is proud of you, and we love seeing you when you come back home. Hope you will again soon.
“You and I have spoken before about the dangerous increase in the frequency of sextortion crimes targeting children, young children who are lured or targeted to share compromising or explicit photos and then blackmailed or bullied or worse on the basis of that content.
“Senator Blackburn and Senator Grassley and I have together moved legislation through this committee aimed at helping prevent the sexual abuse of children online.
“Your field office in Atlanta, recently, again, highlighted sextortion as a particular concern in Georgia, the Atlanta field office said that these schemes have increased in frequency by 700% since 2021. Can you please provide an update on the FBI’s overall efforts to investigate and prevent these crimes targeting children online?
DIRECTOR WRAY: “So, this is a rapidly emerging threat to the youth of America. It’s not when I say rapidly emerging, it’s not that it’s brand new, as you and I have discussed, it’s been emerging for some time. But what’s newer is that it’s really bursting into prominence. In the last, let’s say, year and a half in particular, and that that’s mostly a bad thing because of how prevalent it is. But it is also a reflection of it potentially a little bit of a good thing, which is growing awareness. And we need more awareness of this.
“What is the FBI doing? We’re aggressively investigating these cases. We just recently had a case, for example, where a very tragic case in Michigan where a young teenager male committed suicide because he was basically in one of exactly one of these kinds of cases, was essentially egged on when he couldn’t pay the money. And he was explaining he didn’t have the money, egged on to kill himself. And he did. And we pursued in that case, the wrongdoers were all the way over in Nigeria. We worked with our Nigerian partners, got the individuals involved, arrested, had them brought back, extradited back to the US, to face trial here as a way of demonstrating that you are never beyond our reach. And that we’re going to pursue these cases relate to the far corners of the globe.
“But the second thing, and part of the reason I bring up that case, as an example, is that it’s very important to raise awareness, because I think a lot of the kids that are falling victim to this, when they get targeted, they don’t they don’t think they have a choice.
“They feel like they’re trapped and stuck, and then turn to tragic consequences like suicide. So, raising awareness is not just raising awareness for parents, but it’s raising awareness for teenagers so that they know there’s something they can do.
“So, we’re working with NCMEC, for example. But in that Michigan case, to their great credit, the young man’s parents sort of embraced the idea of using his case, his tragic death as a way to try to prevent other kids from falling victim to the same thing. And it’s really deeply moving that they would try to find some good that they can achieve through the just heartbreaking loss of their son.”
SEN. OSSOFF: “Thank you, Director Wray and that is obviously a top concern for parents in Georgia.”
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