If you’re a parent, its information you need to know. The FBI is reporting the number of so-called “sextortion” cases in New Jersey, involving teenagers, is on the rise.

Sextortion is a criminal offense where an individual, usually a juvenile, is extorted or blackmailed for compromising or totally nude photos of themselves.

Timothy Gallagher, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Newark Division, says a predator will go onto a social media site and create a fake identity to make it appear they are. say,  a 14-year-old boy, and then befriend a younger teen girl.

“(The impostors) maybe send them a picture and say hey here’s a picture of me. Of course, it’s not them but a picture they’ve obtained from someone else, but they’ll use that a bait to get a picture in from a 14-year-old.”

He said once they get the picture they’re looking for “they have that person’s number to text them at or their email, and they’ll extort them to get more pictures of an increasingly more graphic variety from that victim.”

Gallagher explained the predator will tell the victim unless she complies, that first photo will be sent to all her friends, her parents and even her grandparents.

“And so the victim, rather than subject themselves to their picture being posted to people that they know, will then continue to manufacture pictures, and this will go on and on and on,” he said.

Many parents may be unaware that their children have been victimized by these extortionists.

“We’re definitely not seeing all of these cases coming forward, there are a lot of victims out there suffering in silence right now,” he said.

Even though the victim may feel ashamed and embarrassed, “they need to go to an adult and say, 'Hey, here’s what I did; I need your support.'"

He says that in some instances the predator may be looking to extort money, but usually that’s not the case.

“The vast majority of these cases are going to involve predators who are looking to develop their library of pictures of underage kids in compromising positions,” he said.

Gallagher said cracking down on “manufacturing of child pornography is our highest priority in the FBI, within our crimes against children program. It’s something we have a high focus on because it’s a growing problem, the number of cases that have come to the FBI have definitely spiked.”

He also advised parents to do their best to warn kids what’s out there on the internet, to explain to them that these kinds of pictures will be out there online forever and may wind up in the wrong hands.

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