Illustration by Jon Krause

An online nude-photo scam is ensnaring thousands of teen boys and causing emotional trauma.

Scammers posing as teen girls befriend boys online, share nude photos of a girl and then ask for nude photos in return. Once the boy reciprocates, the schemer demands money be sent by a peer-to-peer payment app and threatens to share the boy’s photos with his social-media followers if he doesn’t pay.

That is how law-enforcement officials and child-protection experts describe a growing wave of online predators targeting teens. Previously, online sextortion—as they call it—largely involved pedophiles blackmailing kids into sending photos or videos. These new scammers focus on money, law-enforcement officials say.

Three years ago, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received fewer than 10 reports of this sort of financial extortion. Last year, the congressionally mandated nonprofit received more than 10,000—and has already received 12,500 this year.

Columnist Julie Jargon, a mother of three, helps families find answers and address concerns about the ways technology is impacting their lives.PreviewSubscribe

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