District informed of police investigation (updated)

Update – Jan. 31, 2023:

As we shared yesterday, the Town of Manlius Police Department is currently investigating five local cases of online exploitation in which victims are being threatened and coerced into virtually sending money or private and sensitive content, such as explicit images and videos, to an adult predator.

The district has been made aware that at least one of the local cases could involve a Fayetteville-Manlius student who was targeted outside of school via social media.

As part of the scheme, which is referred to as sextortion, predators threaten to release the compromising material unless the victim, who is typically a minor, sends additional images, money or gift cards. In many cases, predators will release the images or videos even if payment is made, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Last month, the FBI in partnership with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), issued a national public safety alert about the explosive increase in national sextortion cases.

This form of virtual blackmail is also on the rise locally in Onondaga County, according to law enforcement officials.

Because student safety within our school district extends beyond physical security, the district would like to remind parents, guardians and students about the importance of online vigilance.

  • Do not take, save or share any explicit photos of yourself or others.
  • Do not share usernames or password information with anyone.
  • Do not open a message or click on a link from an email address or name that you do not know. Delete it immediately.
  • Understand that every action taken on social media, and online in general, leaves a digital footprint that does not disappear.

Sextortion schemes usually occur in online environments where young people feel most comfortable, such as on social media platforms, gaming sites, or video chat applications.

If you or your child feels they may be a victim of sextortion, or any form of cybercrime, please contact the Town of Manlius Police Department immediately at 315-682-2212, or via its confidential TIPs Line: 315-682-8673.

It is also important to follow these safety tips:

  • Immediately change all usernames and passwords that have been shared with anyone.
  • Stop all contact with the offender; report and block the predator’s account via the platform’s privacy feature.
  • Do not delete any accounts or messages as they could contain information that assists with the investigation.
  • Ask for help. Report the situation to a trusted adult, such as a parent or guardian, teacher or counselor. If you don’t feel that you have adults in your corner, you can reach out to NCMEC for support at gethelp@ncmec.org or call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST.

More information, resources, and conversation guides are available online here.

January 30, 2023

Dear Fayetteville-Manlius parents and guardians,

As you may be aware or have heard about on local news media, the Town of Manlius Police Department has reported about sextortion cases in which East Syracuse Minoa and Fayetteville-Manlius school district students could have been targeted outside of school via social media.

By definition, sextortion is the act of threatening to share nude or explicit images, private or sensitive material. Online predators might gain trust by pretending to be someone they are not. The victim could feel there is no way out once a predator gains access to their social media account and retrieves photos, then demands the victim to send money, gift cards, or more photos.

At this time, we do not know if any F-M students have been impacted by this form of blackmail; however, the district is working closely with the Town of Manlius Police Department. We will provide an update once it is available.

If your child is experiencing any form of threatening behavior virtually or is receiving inappropriate requests online, please contact: Town of Manlius Police Department immediately – 315-682-2212; Confidential TIPs Line: 315-682-8673

Craig J. Tice