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FBI Specialists Address Cybercrime and drug use


By Sandy Sabot for Washington School District

            An innocent chat or conversation with a new, online “friend” can turn out to be more than what you thought. According to Jenna, an FBI intelligence analyst, who spoke with a group of administrators, board, staff, and parents at Washington High School on Tuesday, December 12th, “the latest crime the internet is being used for is what we call ‘sextortion’ or blackmail with a sexual component.”

            Often chats online lead to exchange of photos usually from of nude or lewd shots of each other. Jenna explained that the perpetrators target young males and females, who are then blackmailed into sending money, gift cards, or additional sexual content. If not, they threaten victims to do what they want or they will post their photos online for all the world to see.

            Intelligence Analyst Jenna encouraged the audience to report incidents of sextortion to local authorities and be aware that produced content may live on the internet forever. “Once something is put on the internet, it’s there permanently,” it may be deleted from viewing, but technologically-skilled people know how to access it.  In today’s world everyone has a “digital footprint” through whatever programs you may use, from Facebook to Snapchat, Instagram to YouTube. Deleting everything you have put on the Internet is nearly impossible. Something a7th or 8th grader posts now could come back to haunt or harass them later in life while preparing for college or career searches.

            Jenna explained that younger children are being targeted more today through videogames.  She cited the vulnerability of young children to listen to meet and engage with individuals through the internet. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children cites the increase in activities among children and teens for self-harm activities such as cutting, harming another child, or mistreating a pet. She explained that for some, these activities may lead a young teen to suicide. The FBI is constantly looking for ways to curtail these activities. She encouraged everyone to be watchful and if you see something that doesn’t seem right, to say something to the authorities like local police, state police, or the FBI. Tips from the public help stop cybercrime.

            The second half of the presentation was done by Tactical Specialist Christina from the Drug Trafficking Squad. Her discussion focused on the drug cartels which exist throughout the world and right in our own area. Western PA receives drugs from all the major cartels from Mexico because we have a large number of drug users, and our interstates make easy access to many locations.”

            The Drug Trafficking Squad works with Customs and Border Patrol, local, state, and other federal law enforcement agencies to rein in the sellers. She explained that one of the latest trends in illegal drugs is fentanyl being pressed into pills, which appeals to young teens. They may appear harmless like a prescription pill, but they are deadly. Another drug issue is the increased use of meth or speed. Previously, meth was made locally and was not as strong. Now stronger meth is being used by individuals and the stimulation can be too much for the heart, causing fatal heart attacks.

About 77% of adolescent overdoses are from fentanyl with a new drug entering the mix – Xylazine, or “tranq,” which is a veterinary medicine used on horses. A small amount of that can result in skin lesions and skin literally falling off, as well as overdoses, leading to death. Unlike fentanyl, tranq is not reversible by NARCAN, which has saved many lives of overdose victims.

Tactical Specialist Christina also suggested parents go online for the Drug Emoji Guide from the DEA which shows how the various drugs look and what symbols are being used by drug dealers. The best way again to help crack down on the drug crime is the same as the internet sex crimes and scams – if you see or suspect something, say something. Contact the local, state, or federal authorities where you live to let them know what you have seen or suspect is going on. Open communication can help make a difference for everyone.

Posted: December 2023