By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Authorities in the east metro are warning parents about a rise in “sextortion” cases.

The Woodbury Department of Public Safety is currently investigating several cases, with the victims typically ranging in age between 14 and 18 years old.

Sextortion is a form of extortion where a victim sends sexual photos or videos to someone they recently met on social media — then that person turns around and threatens to post the personal content online unless the victim pays them money.

Woodbury Police Cmdr. John Altman says criminals often find their victims from scouring social media, or from websites tied to schools and youth sports organizations, and then send them friend requests.

“Parents should take the time to discuss the real threats that exist in the social media world. Particularly during the pandemic, when kids are separated from their friends in person, the lure of new acquaintances can be tempting,” Altman said. “It is important for kids to know who their friends are, and a good rule of thumb is to limit social media friends to verifiable people.”

Altman says most cases are never reported due to the humiliation inflicted on the victims.