COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Federal authorities received 7,000 reports of financial sexual extortion targeting minors in 2022, an issue that has prompted South Carolina lawmakers to consider a bill that would make the crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
The bill advanced this week by the House Judiciary subcommittee has more than 50 co-sponsors, including Republican Rep. Brandon Guffey of York County, who said his 17-year-old son Gavin was victimized in July 2022.
“He ended up taking his life that night,” Guffey said. “It took a few days, but we found out he was being extorted.”
He said his son’s death prompted him to look deeper into the issue and help create the legislation.
Sexual extortion or ‘sextortion’ is an interaction that could happen on social media, dating or messaging apps or anywhere intimate photos are shared. It happens when a victim is threatened with the release of these photos unless they pay money.
“This is not typically a single individual targeting your child,” Guffey said. “This is a network, organized crime.”
According to federal authorities, a large percentage of these schemes originate outside of the United States. Boys are the primary targets of online scammers, and 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,” he said.
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to take this bill up soon. If it’s passed there, it would move to the House floor.
If you think your child is a victim of sexual extortion, you can report it to the FBI by calling 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.