FBI tells Americans to be careful with online photos, warns about ‘deepfake sextortion schemes’

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning Americans to be careful when posting photos or videos of themselves online.

According to a recent alert from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, “malicious actors” are making “synthetic content, commonly referred to as deepfakes,” by taking photos or videos and manipulating them to target victims.

The FBI said in a statement that the advance of technology is “continuously improving the quality, customizability, and accessibility,” of AI-powered content creation, and that the bureau continues to receive reports from victims whose photos were altered.

The victims aren’t just adults. In their alert, the FBI said victims include minor children and other non-consenting adults, whose pictures and videos were turned into explicit content without their consent.

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The bureau said the videos and photos are “typically captured” from social media accounts, or requested from the victims.

The “malicious actors” then post the manipulated images and videos on social media, in public forums, or on pornographic content websites.

After the materials are posted, the FBI says victims don’t know the images were copied, manipulated, then spread around, until someone else brings it to their attention.

Then the photos are sent to victims for sextortion or harassment.

Once the images are circulated, “victims can face significant challenges in preventing the continual sharing of the manipulated content or removal from the internet,” the FBI said.


Since April, the FBI said it has seen “an uptick in sextortion victims reporting the use of fake images or videos created from content posted on their social media sites or web postings.”

The agency said the images are at times provided by victims upon request, or taken from video chats using online capture tools.

Then, the malicious actors demand payment, or for the victims to provide real sexually-themed images or videos, rather than creating fake ones using the images they already have.

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As a result, the “FBI urges the public to exercise caution when posting or direct messaging personal photos, videos, and identifying information on social media, dating apps, and other online sites” and reminds the public that even images that may seem harmless can be used by “malicious actors” to make “an abundant supply of content to exploit for criminal activity.”

Victims have access to a free service called Take It Down, according to the FBI, provide by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The FBI said that if you believe you are the victim of a crime using these types of tactics, retain all information regarding the incident (e.g., usernames, email addresses, websites or names of platforms used for communication, photos, videos, etc.) and immediately report it to:


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