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The Dark Web and Sextortion: The FBI Says They Can Help If You're Targeted

The FBI special agent in charge says it may not be the kids' fault, and you should have courage and tell someone if it happens to you.

INDIANAPOLIS--The "dark web" is indeed a dark place. It's used to traffic drugs, child pornography, and earlier this week a man was accused of trying to sell a woman in Europe, on the "dark web". 

The dangers of anonymity

You're being warned about the dangers of people who are using the anonymity of the "dark web" for sextortion, which is what the feds say Buster Hernandez, of Bakersfield, California, did to teenage girls in Indiana, before threatening to blow up Plainfield High School and a shopping mall.

"When you use this, when you access it, you can communicate, make it practically impossible for anyone to identify your IP address," said Jay Abbott, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Indianapolis. Your IP address is a series of numbers that your computer is assigned when you're on the web, that can show people where you are. Authorities use IP addresses to catch cyber criminals.

The start of sextortion

"If you're a person that is trying to take advantage of a young woman and you don't want to be identified, you might send them an e-mail over the Tor network," said Abbott. That network is part of the "dark web", and lets people using it communicate anonymously.

Abbott said that can be the start of sextortion. He said the person doing it may say "How many guys have you sent dirty pictures to, because I've got some. If the person bites and they get a reply, they say I'm gonna release all these photos to all your friends, your family, your teachers and everybody else, so everybody can see them, unless you give me more of them."

Abbott said the person doing the sextorting then has the upper hand.

They're probably good kids

"A lot of parents and people out in the community think, well, they kind of asked for it because they got involved in this on their own. No, not necessarily so," said Abbott. He said that many of the young people who are being sextorted are good kids. They may have made a mistake, or they may have had a picture taken unbeknownst to them, via a hacked webcam.

"They have no idea what pictures might be out there. That could cause them to wonder. As soon as they start to comply and they think it's gonna be okay, then they're trapped."

Your greatest weapon

Abbott said that knowing this could happen may be your greatest weapon to help fight it. He said if you get a threat, tell the authorities.

"Have courage. Talk to somebody about it. Get to the authorities. We can help."

Abbott said that right now, as the Plainfield case proves, there ways to find the crooks and prosecute them.

"We do have tools in our tool box that allow us to tackle problems where persons try to obscure their identities on the internet in order to conduct crimes."

Tomorrow you'll find out why that may not always be the case in the future.

PHOTO: Thinkstock/scyther5

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