The FBI is warning people about a rising online exploitation threat. It's called "sextortion," and it's the online enticement of children. Victims are coerced into sending sexually explicit images with the threat of strangers releasing them to the public.
Detective Chris Shermer is one of two detectives in western Montana who investigates sextortion crimes. He said they're happening on cellphone apps including Tinder, Kik and Snapchat. He says parents should be monitoring how their children are using those apps.
The FBI said sextortion cases target mostly teen girls, even to the point of suicide.
"Just like cyberbullying, they don't want to make it worse or tell somebody that they're being bullied or talked to inappropriately online," Shermer said.
Here's how sextortion works: A teen makes friends with a stranger on social media. After getting to know each other, that stranger entices them to send sexual images. If a teen does, perpetrators then threaten to post the photos publically if the teen does not send more or pay up.
Shermer said the threat is people never know where those images could end up.
“The kids freak out and then they continue to send them and get in this kind of cycle that they can't get out," he said.
It's a crime that largely goes unreported. "First of all it's embarrassing. They don't want to go talk to the parents, or their teachers or their counselors," so Shermer said they keep doing it.
Police try to proactively seek out the suspects, but Shermer said it's also up to the public to help police it.
He said it's important for parents, counselors and friends to ask their children about it. "That's the biggest thing you need to tell your child. They're not in trouble," he added.