As a kid, I remember seeing after-school specials about avoiding strangers in white vans and checking my Halloween candy for razor blades. Now, there is a new online threat to children.

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There are groups online that go by names such as 676, 764, CVLT, Court, Kaskar, Harm Nation, Leak Society and H3ll that the FBI says targets minors ages 8-17 years old for membership. These groups try to manipulate their victims into performing unspeakable acts, like causing harm to an animal or themselves or worse, in order to become a member of the group.

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Once their victims commit these acts, the videos or photos are distributed to the other group members and are often used as blackmail if the victim does not do what the group requests.

The members of these groups make their victims commit several acts that are either illegal or humiliating to them. Group members do this to gain notoriety in the group.

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Who is the group's prime target?

These groups target juveniles in the age range from 8-17. The FBI says they especially target those who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. They also focus on youth of racial minorities, and those who struggle with various mental health issues, such as depression and suicidal ideation.

What happens If the Victims Don’t Follow the Request of The Group?

If the victims don’t follow the request of the group, then they can be subject to punishment. There are two primary ways of forcing their victims into compliance. One way is the use of swatting; this is when the group makes false reports to authorities, and the group's goal is to have armed authorities show up at the victim's location.

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The other tactic is called Doxing. This is when group members have documents or other compromising material that the victim would not want to be published or shared with anyone. The group threatens to release this material, so many victims will do what is asked to keep it from being seen by their friends, family, or co-workers

Are There Signs That My Child May Be a Victim of These Groups?

The FBI recommends anyone with concerns to take note of any sudden changes such as:

  • Becoming withdrawn, moody, or irritable
  • Changes in appearance, especially neglect of appearance
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Dropping out of activities and becoming more isolated and withdrawn
  • Scars, often in patterns
  • Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises, bite marks, burns or other wounds
  • Carvings, such as words or symbols, on the skin.
  • Wearing long sleeves or pants in hot weather.
  • Threatening to commit suicide and openly talking about death, not being wanted or needed or not being around.

What Can I Do to Protect My Child?

The FBI recommends the public to do the following when your children are online:

  • Monitor children's online activity and discuss risks associated with sharing personal content.
  • Use discretion when posting images, videos, and personal content online, particularly those that include children or their information.
  • Apply privacy settings on social media accounts—including setting profiles and your friends' lists as private—to limit the public exposure of your photos, videos, and other personal information.
  • Consider using reverse image search engines to locate any photos or videos that have circulated on the internet without your knowledge.
  • Exercise caution when accepting friend requests, communicating, engaging in video conversations, or sending images to individuals, you do not know personally. Be especially wary of individuals who immediately ask or pressure you to provide them with photos or videos. Those items could be screen-captured, recorded, manipulated, shared without your knowledge or consent, and used to exploit you or someone you know.
  • Do not provide any unknown or unfamiliar individuals with money or other items of value. Complying with malicious actors does not guarantee your sensitive photos or content will not be shared.
  • Use discretion when interacting with known individuals online who appear to be acting outside their normal pattern of behavior. Malicious actors can easily manipulate hacked social media accounts.
  • Secure social media and other online accounts using complex passwords, passphrases, and multi-factor authentication.
  • Research the privacy, data sharing, and data retention policies of social media platforms, apps, and websites before uploading and sharing images, videos, or other personal content.
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Find these and other resources from the FBI's press release, here. Be aware of your children’s online presence, it could save their lives.

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