Family Raises Awareness about Financial Sextortion After Teen’s Suicide

Family members of seventeen-year-old track star James Woods, who posed for his senior yearbook photo and recently obtained his driver’s license, were shocked to learn that he fell victim to an online predator on Instagram, receiving 200 disturbing messages within just 20 hours, including alarming threats, as recounted by his mother, Tamia Woods.

CBS News reported the FBI categorizes such incidents as financial sextortion, where minors are coerced into sharing compromising images, often orchestrated by criminals abroad, through platforms like gaming, video streaming, or instant messaging apps.

Abbigail Beccaccio, unit chief for the FBI Child Exploitation Unit, emphasized that any child could be a victim of this crime, revealing that children as young as 9 are forced to send money under the threat of their explicit photos being posted online. 

Between October 2021 and March 2023, the FBI tracked approximately 12,600 sextortion victims, all minors, with at least 20 of them tragically ending their lives by suicide, including James Woods.

Tamia Woods, grieving the loss of her only child, highlighted the devastating impact, calling it the most horrible phone call she had ever received. 

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Family Grieves and Raises Awareness

family-raises-awareness-about-financial-sextortion
Family members of seventeen-year-old track star James Woods, who posed for his senior yearbook photo and recently obtained his driver’s license, were shocked to learn that he fell victim to an online predator on Instagram, receiving 200 disturbing messages within just 20 hours, including alarming threats, as recounted by his mother, Tamia Woods.

Family members across the nation were alerted by the FBI in December 2022 about a pervasive sextortion scam that victimized more than 3,000 boys, aiming to raise awareness and address the alarming issue.

This scam often involved impersonating a woman on a fake account, enticing victims to share explicit material, and threatening exposure unless they sent money or gift card codes.

Beccaccio stressed the importance of public tips in aiding the FBI’s efforts, emphasizing that community information is crucial for law enforcement to take action. 

The Woods family is bravely sharing their story to break the stigma surrounding sextortion and raise awareness about the devastating consequences.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children advises parents and children to seek assistance before considering paying extortionists, recommending blocking the suspect without deleting profiles or messages, as it can be vital for stopping blackmailers. 

For individuals facing emotional distress or suicidal crisis, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available by calling or texting 988. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine, offering mental health care resources and support, can be reached at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or via email at [email protected], Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. ET.

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