The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a warning about a growing crime trend called “sextortion.”
It's a huge problem all over the United States, including in Green Country, as online predators terrorize teenagers into sending sexually explicit photos.
Sextortion is where someone convinces you to send a racy picture then threaten to post it all over social media unless you do one of three things - send sexier pictures, have sex with them or give them money.
Police said kids want to avoid the embarrassment and think the extortion will go away, so they give in, but things snowball out of control.
Kids can now send text messages through messaging apps, which means there are no phone numbers and it's all anonymous, so they can talk to all kinds of strangers.
Often, those strangers pretend to be other teenagers and convince their victims to send a racy photo. The victims think they'll never see or hear from the person again, but that's when the threats begin.
Sergeant Malcolm Williams, TPD Cyber Crimes, said, "anytime you have the ability to communicate with people you don't know, there's the probability, potential of danger, especially when posting pictures you shouldn't be posting."
The FBI said a man named Lucas Chansler sextorted 350 teenage girls all over the U.S. They only know who about 100 of them and need help identifying the rest.
They said he used lots of fake screen names and pretended to be a 15-year-old boy who likes skateboarding and would convince girls to send him a racy picture then began demanding more.
"The fear of embarrassment tends to make people do things they normally wouldn't do," Williams said.
He said parents are often shocked their kids put themselves in these situations, but by the time the case gets to police the damage has already been done and they can only react.
“This is a war and, it may not be what parents want to hear, but us as law enforcement, we can't win this one," said Williams.
He said parents are the front line of defense and can be proactive with what their kids do online and who they talk to.
In the national case, girls could be seen in the videos, crying and begging Chansler not to blackmail them.
It’s important to remind kids about safety on social media or through texting. They also said if someone starts threatening, it’s important to report it immediately.