COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — According to federal authorities, they received 7,000 reports of financial sexual extortion targeting minors in 2022.
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would make this is a crime punishable up to 30 years in prison in South Carolina. A House Judiciary subcommittee advanced the bill this week. It currently has more than 50 co-sponsors.
The bill’s main sponsor, Representative Brandon Guffey (R-York), said his 17-year-old son Gavin fell victim to this crime in July 2022.
“He ended up taking his life that night. It took a few days but we found out he was being extorted,” Guffey said.
He said his son’s death led to him looking into this issue and filing the bill.
Sexual extortion or ‘sextortion’ is an interaction that could happen on social media, dating app or messaging app where intimate photos are shared. Then the victims are threatened with release of these photos unless they fork over money.
“This is not typically a single individual targeting your child. This is a network, organized crime,” Guffey said.
According to federal authorities, a large percentage of these schemes originate outside of the United States. Boys are the primary targets of online scammers. Rep. Guffey said his goal is to raise awareness about the issue.
“The only good I can get out of losing my son is to know I can protect other parents from ever having to face this pain and protecting teens from ever having to go through this.”
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to take this bill up soon. If it passes there, it will then be sent to the House floor.
If you believe your child is a victim of sexual extortion, you can report it to your local FBI field office, or by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at tips.fbi.gov.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also call SCDMH’s Mobile Crisis Team at 833-364-2274.