AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF)- Cyber crimes against children and teens are increasing, prompting the FBI to warn parents and kids about sextortion. Cyber criminals targeting kids will coerce them into sending revealing pictures of themselves, then threaten to release them if the child doesn’t do what they want.

Traditionally, cyber criminals use these photos to force girls to take more explicit pictures by threatening to release the images and kill their loved ones if they don’t comply. But lately, they are targeting boys too, by using financial sextortion.

“So it’s different than traditional sextortion which is for sexual gratification. This is strictly for financial gain,” said Jenna Sellitto, FBI Public Affairs Specialist for Georgia.

More than 3,000 children, mostly boys, have been the victims of financial sextortion over the last year. Cyber criminals use popular social media sites like Instagram, TikTok and even gaming consoles, to target their victims.

“And we see that these individuals are impersonating kids that are maybe similar ages to them. For example, maybe a younger girl. So, they think they are interacting with another teenage girl when, really, it’s a predator,” explained Sellitto.

And sometimes kids think they are talking to someone they know.

“And we’re also seeing even that these predators are hacking people’s accounts that these kids may know. So, they think they’re actually talking to a friend, but really it’s not even them. It’s somebody that’s hacked their account.”

For many children, it’s nearly impossible for them to get their hands on the amount of money being demanded. And for some it leads to tragic results.

“It’s embarrassing. These kids don’t want to come forward. They don’t have the money to pay. They don’t know what to do. So yeah, it really can affect their psyches and we have seen the suicide rates rise a little bit because of that,” said Sellitto.

The FBI is seeing this crime skyrocket and they want to get the word out to parents.

“In 2022, our reports of this were ten times the amounts from 2021. Here in Georgia, just this year alone, we’ve had 64 complaints. And last year total, we had 83,” Sellitto stated.

If your child is a victim of sextortion, block the scammer but don’t delete the messages. Taking screenshots would be a good idea too.

“We, one, would recommend calling local law enforcement first. However, a lot of these offenders are overseas, so it really becomes a federal jurisdiction type of case typically. If you suspect this is happening, if you know it’s happening, report it to the FBI.”

Wednesday on Good Morning Augusta, we’ll tell parents how to protect their kids from these types of scams, how to talk to them about it, and what to do if it happens to your family.