Predatory Internet Grooming

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Jacob, a 13-year-old student, starts up his computer in his bedroom. It only takes a few seconds before the math whiz logs on to the popular game 'Fortnite' and selects Battle Royal. His avatar, Lone Star, is on the Fortnite battle bus flying over the game's entire map. While waiting to choose the perfect place to jump out, he hears a familiar voice. 

"Good to see you again, Lone Star."

"Is that you, Princess Grace?" asked Jacob.

"You know it. How ya doing?"


"How’s school?"

"Another shit show," Jacob laughs.

"Tell me about it; I just wanted to leave before the first bell. How're the folks?"

"Still fighting. They need to divorce."

"That's tough."

"But, thanks to you—I can get through anything."

"Glad to help. Do you have another picture? I can't wait to see it!!!"

Jacob doesn't realize that he has been talking for the past month with Princess Grace, a 45-year-old man who has been pretending to be a girl Jacob's age.  

Predatory Internet Grooming

There are many different terms for predatory online behavior, like Catfishing, Role-Play, Financial Sextortion, or Online Grooming. But they all include a form of grooming in which the predator establishes an online relationship with a person, pretends to be something they are not, and tricks or pressures the victim into extortion, bullying, or sextortion.  

I devised the term Predatory Internet Grooming (PIG), so children can connect and visualize the term instead of, for example, a term like Financial Sextortion, which many kids may not comprehend. I created PIG to demonstrate the ugliness and cunningness of how predators prey on the innocence of children on the internet. The predator befriends the child by getting to know them through what seems to be innocent questions. By adopting a false identity and online profile, the predator can appear the same age and pretend to have the same interests as the child.  

Financial Sextortion (a legal term) is an online crime where an adult manipulates, bullies, or convinces someone under 18 to share sexual images or perform sexual acts on video or webcam. Sometimes the child is not even aware that they are being filmed. 

Jacob quickly glances at his closed door and hears his parents arguing in the kitchen downstairs.

"I don't know, Princess Grace; my parents are home now." 

"They won't know; this is our secret."

"They might come into my room."

"Lock the door."

"I can't. We have a no-locked-door policy."


"Don't be like that."

"After everything I've done for you, and you act like this. Did you enjoy the Amazon card I sent you?”

“Yes, but….”

“Don't you like me anymore?"

"No, that's not it. It's just…."

"If you liked me, you’d show me."


"You know like you did the last time."

"But my parents…."

"Aren't you brave enough to do what you want, or must you ask your mommy and daddy?"

"You know that’s not true."

"Prove it." 

"Okay. Give me a sec." 

Jacob rushes to the door, cracks it open, and listens. His parents are really into their argument and probably don't even know he is home. He locks the door and returns to his desk, pulling his shirt over his head. 

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What the predator is doing is collecting information to groom the child into exploitative procedures. Through this ruse of creating a friendship (and even a relationship online), the predator develops a sense of trust and will use the child's insecurities to get them to do what they want. It starts with the child sending a candid photo to the predator, thinking they are sending it to a person their age and someone they trust. Sometimes the predator will return a picture they pulled from the internet to build trust and create a bond before defrauding or exploiting the child. Through building trust and a relationship, the predator asks for more provocative images and escalates to videos. The predator pressures the child to send money or more pictures and videos, or there would be consequences, like posting the photos and videos on porn sites. However, the predator may have already posted the pictures and videos and received compensation from the porn site. If the child continues to resist, the predator may even resort to threatening tactics, like informing the child's parents, burning the house down, or hurting someone close to the child. 

Christopher Wray, FBI Director, states, "Financial sextortion has a far wider impact than just our country and our kids—it is a global crisis that demands everyone's attention."

In February 2023, the FBI warned about global financial sextortion of minors, primarily boys, based on the exponential increase from 2022. 

The following statistics are based only on reported cases. So, these numbers are lower than the reality. Financial Sextortion or Predatory Internet Grooming is an epidemic. 

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Over 80%

The percentage of child sex crimes that start on the internet and social media

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The number of predators who attempt to contact children daily on the internet

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12 to 15

The age range of children that is most significantly targeted by online preadtors

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The percentage of children who are contacted by predators via instant messenger or voice chats on popular game sites or chat rooms

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Over 25%

The percentage of incidents of internet exploitation in which predators request sexually explicit photos and videos from the child

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The percentage of parents who know what their children are doing online

Why are males reluctant to report?

Males seem to be falling through the cracks when it comes to Predatory Internet Grooming and Financial Sextortion because of the amount of shame and embarrassment that results when the predators present their true identity. Some males may feel responsible for accepting gifts from the predator and feel alone, scared, shameful, and blame themselves for being taken advantage of by the predator. Some males have committed suicide. 

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If you or someone you know is being financially sextorted:

Remember that the predator is to blame, not your child or you.

Report the predator's account via the platform's safety feature.

Block the predator and do not delete the profile or messages because they can be helpful to law enforcement in identifying and stopping them.

Ask for help from a trusted adult or law enforcement before sending money or more images. Cooperating rarely stops the blackmail and harassment, but law enforcement can.

Trust that there is life after sextortion.

About the Author:

John-Michael Lander is a Survivor, Advocate & Public Speaker

He is also the founder of An Athlete's Silence: