Home » Sextortion training materials found on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, according to new report

Sextortion training materials found on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, according to new report

by NBC News

A form of cybercrime called “financial sextortion” is rapidly rising in North America and Australia, with a major portion driven by a non-organized cybercriminal group in West Africa who call themselves “Yahoo Boys,” according to a new study from the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI). 

Sextortion is “a crime that involves adults coercing kids and teens into sending explicit images online,” according to the FBI. The criminals threaten their victims with wide distribution of the explicit images, including to the victims’ friends and family, unless the victims pay them, repeatedly, through a variety of peer-to-peer payment apps, cryptocurrency transfers and gift cards.

NCRI, a nonprofit, found cybercriminals used the social apps Instagram, Snapchat and Wizz to find and connect with their marks. 

Yahoo Boys’ tactics gained popularity among some as a way to get rich quickly in West Africa, where there are scant other means of earning income, according to a 2023 Atavist investigation. Popular songs referencing Yahoo Boys have lent the cybercriminal gangs cultural clout. 

Despite increasing amounts of reported sextortion online over the last several years, the NCRI researchers say that platforms used by Yahoo Boys and other threat actors have been slow to moderate their materials or make changes that could help curb the spread of sextortion.

Sextortion is a “transnational crime threat that is actually causing a significant number of American deaths,” said Paul Raffile, a senior intelligence analyst with the NCRI who co-led the study. This form of crime — which has mostly impacted boys and young men, according to NCRI Director of Intelligence Alex Goldenberg — can be so devastating that it drives some victims to suicide.

In August 2023, NBC News reported that two Nigerian men were extradited to the U.S. to face charges in a sextortion scheme that authorities say prompted the suicide of a 17-year-old Michigan high school student. The men…

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