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NCIS Facing Growing Number of "Sextortion" Cases

According to the NCIS, a growing number of sailors have been targeted for "sextortion." As The Day reports, the agency has been taking preventive measures to help sailors recognize the signs of the crime and avoid being victimized by criminals who are difficult to prosecute.

"Sextortion" is a form of extortion that occurs online. Perpetrators pose as young women and engage victims in a mutual exchange of nude or sexual photos. When the perpetrator has the photos of the victim, they blackmail the victim to recover money. According to NCIS, the cases involving sailors have been common on Facebook and dating sites such as PlentyOfFish and MeetMe.

According to NCIS Special Agent Ryan Colwell, there have been "multiple instances of Sailors here being victimized in the past six months alone." Since August 2012, the agency can identify 160 sailors that have been targeted, amounting to a loss of roughly $45,000. Authorities believe that the actual number of targeted soldiers is actually much higher and that many do not go to commanders with extortion claims out of embarrassment or fear of discipline—both of which make them prime targets for perpetrators.

Prevention Over Prosecution

Despite the frequency of sextortion claims, it is difficult for the NCIS to pursue and press charges against perpetrators. Even if they are identified by the agency's cyber division, they are often overseas. "We are working to see if there are any ties to the states where we might be able to prosecute individuals accordingly," NCIS Division Chief Megan Bolduc told reporters.

In the meantime, NCIS has circulated more than 100,000 pamphlets to sailors and Marines and have launched anti-crime campaigns to raise awareness about sextortion warning signs. For those who have been affected, authorities are encouraging sailors to come forward and to save their online correspondence with those who extorted them.

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