SACRAMENTO -- An alarming trend involves adults claiming to have nude photographs of minors and using those photographs as leverage to make demands.
Many people have never heard of "sextortion," a relatively new and serious crime. Recently, it has been happening in the Sacramento area.
"He was contacting young women on social media, indicating that he had nude photos of them and threatening to post those photos online," said Sacramento County Sheriff's Sgt. Shaun Hampton.
Hampton says in exchange for keeping those photographs secret, a suspect would demand more nude photographs or meetups at parks in Carmichael. In at least one case, the 18-year-old man forced a young victim into a sexual act.
"Unfortunately, it is something that we see relatively often," said James Williams with the Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force.
Williams and Christie Hirota are the two detectives who worked on the case. They often work undercover to help catch the suspects behind these kinds of crimes.
They say three victims of the suspect out of the Sacramento area have come forward so far and there could be two dozen more.
"As a parent, you need to have open communications with your children because if you don’t allow for that to happen this is how the kids get extorted," Hirota said. "They’re too afraid if something happens to go to their parents."
Hirota and Williams say victims of sextortion in the region are often as young as 10 to 13 years old.
They say if victims know to contact law enforcement or talk to an adult then detectives can work with social media sites like Snapchat or Instagram to remove photographs used for sextortion.
But, Hirota says the bottom line is to instill in your kids "do not send photos to anybody."
"Even if it’s to someone you think is your boyfriend this week or someone who’s your best friend," Hirota said.
"Kids make mistakes," Williams said. "Unfortunately, with the internet today, the mistakes that they make don’t always go away."
Detectives told FOX40 the 18-year-old suspect did not know any of the victims beforehand. He bailed out of jail and is at home.
If you need to report a sextortion crime contact your local authorities.