SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – The FBI sent out a warning for parents that they are seeing an increased number of sextortion schemes on the internet.

The internet, it’s right at our fingertips and within easy reach of children. Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Muller said this can be really dangerous.

“People will pose as a child, but yet, they’re an adult, and they’re trying to get the child to send them pictures of themselves in compromising positions, nude pictures,” explained Sheriff Mueller. “Those type things and then they use for extortion, later on, trying to get the family to pay money.”

The FBI says online sextortion incidents are rising all over the nation, with the main target being males ages 14 to 17.

“For a guy, and for a girl, number one, it’s embarrassing. If somebody comes back and says hey, we’ve got these pictures, we’re going to expose them publicly unless you send us x number of dollars,” said Sheriff Mueller.

Investigators said there are multiple ways sextortionists can reach kids.

“It can be online, sending or receiving pictures, trying to force a minor child to engage in sexual activity with other people, or masturbation, and also it can be done through text messaging and social media apps, as well,” said Investigator Chindar Ryant.

It can also happen through online gaming. Investigator Ryant said she wants any minor that could be scared to say something, to know they’re not at fault.

“Because in these situations, they’re the victim,” said Ryant.

One way parents can help is making sure they are keeping the lines of communication open with their child.

“Establishing you as the caregiver as the person to come to. If they are in a situation that something, someone is breaking one of those rules that you’ve taught them, or if something has just made them feel uncomfortable,” said Emily Miller with the Children’s Advocacy Center.

Miller said it’s important to have candid conversations.

“Teach them rules, but that we teach them rules in a way that does not shame them if a rule were to be broken,” said Miller. “Talking to children about body safety, and what’s okay, and what’s not okay, what’s a safe behavior versus an unsafe behavior.”

If your family member is put in this situation, it’s important to contact law enforcement, immediately.

“The sexual exploitation of a minor, as well as, solicitation of a minor is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, along with other fines,” said Ryant.

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