Police: Sextortion cases involving youth on the rise in Washington County

Law enforcement in Woodbury, Minnesota is warning families about an increase in sextortion cases involving teens.

According to the Woodbury Department of Public Safety, multiple cases are currently under investigation as officials warn of an "alarming increase" in sextortion cases involving juveniles, it said in a release.

Sextortion is when a perpetrator extorts a victim after they share sexual photographs or videos. Law enforcement says the majority of sextortion cases go unreported as the victims feel too scared to tell anyone.

The uptick in cases target children between the ages of 14 and 18. The perpetrators usually disguise themselves as people around the same age and send private messages through social media to the victims. After gaining trust, they normally ask for sexually explicit photographs. If an image or video is sent, the perpetrator starts to threaten the child to pay an amount of money to avoid exposure. If the child does not pay up, the images are sometimes sent to the child’s social media friends.

Imran Ali, the director of a newly created Special Victim Division in the Washington County Attorney's Office, told parents to talk to their children about interacting with strangers on social media.

Similarly, Woodbury Public Safety Commander John Altman recommended children limit social media friends to verifiable people.