6th graders selling feet pictures online to strangers, parents unaware

Apr 7, 2023, 5:00 PM | Updated: 6:03 pm


(Photo by Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

(Photo by Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

It started with my daughter asking if I could paint her toenails so her friend could take pics of her feet and then upload them to social media. She said her friend could get up to $25 for the photos. I paused because my brain couldn’t process what I was hearing. I inquired kindly because I wanted my daughter to keep talking.

The short of it was this friend takes regular feet pics and sells them online. My wife and I took this moment seriously and explained to our 11-year-old why posting body pics online and selling them is wrong.

At first, I didn’t believe what I was hearing. So, like any other parent, I googled ‘Do teens sell feet pics’ and, low and behold, they do. The dangerous trend became popular during the lockdown when we were home-schooling and working remotely, according to Detective Brandon James of the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

According to James, the foot pictures are often used for the sexual gratification of the buyers, and it’s not a crime to buy or sell them.

Community college enrollment has plunged since 2010

James is also the assistant commander of the Washington State Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the lead agency for the statewide task force with approximately 140 law enforcement agencies all across the state training how to investigate internet crimes against children.

The task force gets cyber tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, with reports coming from companies like Google, Facebook, or Snapchat. Federal law requires internet-based companies to report any potential child sexual abuse material.

“I receive all those reports for all of Washington State. I go through each and every single one of them,” James said. “I think the numbers [of reports] are holding steady, we’re about 75-100 for the year coming into Washington State. My team and I look at every single one of those and decide if there is a solvability factor.

“Besides those kinds of investigations, we have undercover investigators who are going out online, either posing as underage child victims, looking for individuals who are intent on causing harm to children, or we have other personas that we pose online, just looking for individuals who are online looking to have sex with children,” James continued.

He said it’s not illegal in the state of Washington for a child to sell feet pictures online, nor is it illegal for an adult to buy the photos.

“Where you start getting into different issues is if an adult is having a conversation with a minor, whether that’s part of the grooming process, or there’s online enticement,” James said. “Now, there are laws against that. And you know, the pictures of feet are just a starting point to open the door to what can I get this kid to do? What else can I get them to take a photo of? And if it started with feet, it oftentimes will go to something else — like a bathing suit.”

He added that if a child is willing to sell pictures of their feet, what else are they willing to do?

James told KIRO Newsradio that social media websites and apps like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram have to report any possible nude or explicit image of what may be a child to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an organization that works with all law enforcement agencies.

Why sexually violent predators are being housed in local communities

He said teens/tweens selling foot pics online isn’t the only issue, as the number of exploited children has steadily risen since the start of the pandemic.

“As I mentioned, oftentimes, when we think of kids being online and being groomed, we have this vision in our minds that it’s a young girl, and there’s a creepy old guy on the other end, and is trying to communicate with our teen or preteen girls, and how inappropriate all that is, and it very much is, but we are seeing a huge problem occur,” James said. “This is sextortion, where our teenage boys are now the victim. What is happening is that they’re receiving friend requests and messages on Snapchat, Instagram, and other platforms, and what they see coming from a very attractive, same- or similar-aged girl who says, ‘Hey, I’m going to share my photos. Share your photos as well’ and when they do, it’s nude photos or sometimes videos. The young boy thinks absolutely. Somebody wants to see me nude, I guess. And they fall for it.”

Sextortion is defined as a non-physical form of coercion to extort sexual favors, typically seen online.

James explained that as soon as the boy sends it, he is extorted, as the person on the other side demands anywhere from $50 to $500 or even more on Cash App or Venmo.

“And we’re finding that this is both a U.S.-based and internationally-based scam that law enforcement all across the country, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations internationally are aware of this, and we’re investigating,” James said.

He stated this crime is so common, he investigated a sextortion case within the last 48 hours.

“Do not give any money whatsoever. Do not provide any money. There’s also going to be an inconvenience because we are going to ask that you shut down your social media, especially the platform you were sharing on,” James said. “You probably have to create some new emails and some new usernames. If you just say no to the money, block the individual, and shut down that account, you can create a new account, but then we have supervision and education, right?

“As a parent, now you have a conversation with your young teen, ‘now you realize how important it is not to accept friend requests from people you don’t know,’ ” James continued. “But obviously, you’re not going to be sharing your images of yourself from this point forward.”

James said these situations can become tragic, as a young man who was entangled in a sextortion incident became so embarrassed that, within hours of being sextorted, he took his own life.

More from Micki Gamez: Free health care clinic to aid Washingtonians who can’t afford healthcare

“He decided within eight hours of the initial sextortion to take his own life,” James shared. “And it’s not to say that all teen suicides are related to this, but one thing here at the Seattle Police Department, we’re trying to get the message out to patrol officers and other investigators that if you’re dealing with a teen situation, particularly a teen death or a teen suicide, they should really be looking at the teen’s phone, because the clues are likely going to be in that phone. And it’s teams like mine that have to be able to have the resources and the forensic capability to look at what’s going on to really help those parents.”

Parents need to have this conversation with their child, and to listen and observe. If one day your child is happy and outgoing and is in a dark place the next, you need to investigate. Check their phones, James warns, as no kid should have a lock or passcode on their phones.

If you believe your child is being exploited, James stated it’s better to make the report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children through its cyber tip-line or by calling 1-800-843-5678.

Follow Micki Gamez on Twitter or email her here.

Local News

echo glen juvenile...

KTTH staff

7 juvenile Echo Glen inmates escape, 4 still on the loose

Seven juveniles escaped the Echo Glen Juvenile detention center early Sunday, according to the King County Sheriff's Office.

1 day ago

(Photo from KIRO 7)...

KIRO 7 News Staff

Crew shortages force WA State Ferries to cancel nearly a dozen trips

Crew shortages forced Washington State Ferries to cancel nearly a dozen trips on one of the busiest travel days KIRO 7 has seen so far this year.

1 day ago

OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT and creator of OpenAI gestures while speaking at Un...

Associated Press

ChatGPT maker downplays fears they could leave Europe over AI rules

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman on Friday downplayed worries that the ChatGPT maker could exit the European Union

1 day ago

Woman stabbed Central District...

Julia Dallas, KIRO 7 News

Woman escapes through second-story window after man allegedly stabs her in Central District

A woman escaped through a second-story window after a man allegedly stabbed her on Saturday in the Central District.

2 days ago

Paraglider Poo Poo Point...

Michael Simeona

Paraglider rescued from tree near Issaquah’s Poo Poo Point

A paraglider was rescued Friday after crashing into a tree near Issaquah's Poo Poo Point. He suffered non-life threatening injuries.

2 days ago

Tacoma rents increase...

Lauren Donovan, KIRO 7 News

Tenants protest outside city hall as Tacoma rents increase four times faster than Seattle

Experts warn that the affordability gap is narrowing, with Tacoma rents increasing four times faster than those in Seattle.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

6th graders selling feet pictures online to strangers, parents unaware