Important – Scam Alert: Financial Sextortion Scams


UH Mānoa Department of Public Safety (DPS) wants to warn our community about the dangers of online activity called “financially motivated sextortion” that may lead to the solicitation of victims to engage in sexual acts and/or coerce them to pay money. DPS has received reports of similar incidents in recent months, and wanted to take this opportunity to educate our community and give warning signs and tips for what to do if you or someone you know is a victim of this scam.


What is Sextortion?

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), financially motivated sextortion is when predators pose as someone else online to coerce victims into taking and sending sexually explicit photos and videos—and then immediately demand payment or threaten to release the photo to the victim’s family and friends. Financially motivated sextortion is a crime – in Hawaii, this is considered Violation of Privacy (HRS §711-1110.9). It is important that our community is aware of how to stay safe online, the risks and warning signs, and how to report if you or someone you know is a victim. While children are often victims of sextortion, college students may also be susceptible to these scams.

Victims often feel alone, embarrassed, and afraid to seek help. But it’s important for victims to understand they are not alone. If you’re feeling threatened, ask a friend or other trusted person for help.


How are victims targeted with financial sextortion?

Predators identify and target victims through social media, gaming platforms, and dating and video/messaging apps. They often pretend to relate to victims, whether it’s pretending to be their age, have similar interests, or live in the same area. They easily misrepresent themselves online to appear to be friendly and age-appropriate. Predators may target several victims who appear to know each other, and may follow people that you or your friends know. In some cases, the profile may look new and have very few followers. In other cases, predators hack legitimate accounts known to victims, or they may create “copycat” accounts to appear as if they’re someone the victim already knows. Profiles often look like they belong to young women or teenage girls.


What happens after a predator identifies a victim?

Predators may ask the victim to switch to a platform that allows video calls. Then, they ask for sexually explicit images and videos and/or engage in sexually explicit activities via video call, then they capture that material without the victims’ knowledge. In some cases, predators will promise to send sexually explicit material back, or they will send sexually explicit material to encourage their victim to do the same. The predator then begins extorting their victims immediately after receiving a sexually explicit image. They threaten to send the image to family, friends, social media followers, schools, and elsewhere unless the victim pays money in some form. As part of the threat, predators sometimes send screenshots showing the victim’s social media followers, friends, and family. They may demand various forms of payment, including gift cards, mobile payment services, wire transfers, and cryptocurrency. The predator sometimes distributes the images even if the victim pays.


What to do if you are targeted

Remember: You are not alone, and this is not your fault. Anyone being exploited should:

  • Report the predator’s account via the platform’s safety feature.
  • Block the predator from contacting you.
  • Save the profile or messages; those can help law enforcement identify and stop the predator.
  • Ask for help from a trusted friend or law enforcement before sending money or more images. Cooperating with the predator rarely stops the blackmail and harassment—but law enforcement can.
  • Report any financial sextortion incident immediately to DPS, Honolulu Police, and/or FBI Honolulu.
  • There are programs that can be used, depending on the age of the victim at the time the photos were taken. These free programs assist users with having their images detected in social media platforms, and removing the images from sites. While UH Mānoa Department of Public Safety does not endorse any single platform, the FBI has recommended the following resources:
    • is a program to assist those who are over the age of 18 and are victims of Non-consensual Intimate Image Sharing, in preventing the further sharing of their images.
    • Take It Down is a service provided through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. This service is for people who have images or videos of themselves nude, partially nude, or in sexually explicit situations taken when they were under the age of 18 that they believe have been or will be shared online.
    • Google has instructions in their Help Center to assist with removing personal explicit or intimate content from Google Search results.
  • E mālama i kekahi i kekahi – Take care of others and your friends. If you sense a friend may need your help, or may be getting into a risky situation, offer them your support and go with them to report the incident.
  • E makaʻala – Be alert. Every situation may be different, but being aware of warning signs can give you a head start. Be careful of content you send over messaging and video platforms, and be aware that a person might not be who they say they are.


Reporting Options & Resources

Resources listed below are available to victims regardless of whether or not they decide to report the incident to police. Any of the resources listed below can assist you in reporting the incident to police or to any other agency or UH office listed, upon request. For a full list of UH Manoa resources, please visit:

  • Advocacy services: contact the Mānoa Advocate at (808) 956-9499 or the UH System Confidential Advocate at (808) 341-4952 for advocacy services, crisis counseling and support, risk assessment, safety planning, Title IX support, and referral services. These offices can assist you and explain the various options and resources available and are trained to assist victims and survivors with the emotional and physical impacts of this type of incident.
  • Counseling services for students: For students, please contact the Counseling and Student Development Center at (808) 956-7927 (Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)
    • After-hours counseling for UH Mānoa Student Housing residents: For after-hours services (outside of Counseling and Student Development Center hours listed above), residents in UH Mānoa Student Housing can contact the counselor-in-residence (CIR) through your Resident Assistant, the RA on-call, or the Residence Director.
  • Employee counseling services: Please speak with your Human Resources representative, who can provide information on the Employee Assistance Program.
  • Law enforcement and DPS. You can report any incident to any or all of the following agencies:
    • Honolulu Police: or dial 911 if it is an emergency
    • FBI Honolulu: (808) 566-4300, or call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at
    • UH Mānoa Department of Public Safety: call (808) 956-6911


UH Mānoa Department of Public Safety