FBI Warns Public of Deepfake Sextortion Schemes Enabled by AI Technology

The FBI cautions about the increasing threat of AI-generated deepfake content used in sextortion schemes, targeting victims of all ages.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a public warning regarding the rise of AI-generated deepfake content, specifically targeting sextortion schemes. As technology advances, the FBI highlights the improved quality, customization, and accessibility of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled content creation, allowing for the manipulation of seemingly harmless content into more sinister forms.

Victims, including children and non-consenting adults, have reported incidents where their photos or videos have been altered and transformed into explicit content. This manipulated content is then often publicly circulated on social media platforms or pornographic websites, with the aim of harassing the victims or facilitating sextortion schemes.

Explicit content refers to the process of taking an individual’s personal content from their social media accounts or the internet, or by directly requesting it from the victim, and transforming it into sexually-themed photos or videos. These altered images appear authentic and are then widely circulated on social media, public forums, or pornographic websites.

The FBI emphasizes that many victims, including minors, may be unaware that their images have been copied, manipulated, and shared until someone brings it to their attention. Once such content is released on the internet, it becomes challenging to remove or control its spread. In some cases, these altered images are even sent back to the victims themselves for the purposes of sextortion or harassment.

Sextortion involves coercing victims into sharing sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves, followed by threats to distribute the material publicly or share it with the victim’s family and friends. Perpetrators may also target victims who have already discovered manipulated content of themselves online, using it as leverage to extort or harass them further.

The motivations behind these schemes include the desire for illicit content, financial gain, or the intent to bully and harass others. The FBI has observed a significant increase in sextortion schemes since April 2023, highlighting the urgency of addressing this issue.

To protect against sextortion schemes, the FBI offers tips to the public, urging caution when sharing content on social media platforms, dating apps, or online platforms. They emphasize the need to be mindful of advancements in content creation technology and the prevalence of personal images online, as they provide opportunities for malicious actors to target and exploit victims. By staying vigilant, individuals can minimize the risks of embarrassment, harassment, extortion, financial loss, or long-term victimization.