PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Pueblo Police Department says there's a rise of "sextortion" cases involving children in the city. According to police, there's been a recent rise in the number of children under the age of 18 being threatened and coerced into sending nude images and sex.
The Internet Crime Against Children Task Force Program (ICAC) says "sextortion" is a form of online exploitation. This extortion and blackmail can be used against the children to obtain money, acquire sexual content, and even coerced sex.
While social media can make communicating and connecting with others easier, police say it provides a direct line for adults with bad intentions to target a child.
The PPD said it's hard for minors to be aware of who they're talking to online.
"Unfortunately, when you're online, you don't know who you're talking to and that they're this old, and maybe there are, or maybe they're not. That's the problem with the internet. You don't know who they're talking to," said Sgt. Ortega with the Pueblo Police Department.
Sgt. Ortega said officers file sextortion cases under three categories:
- Posting nude images.
However, sextortion cases are not limited to those three categories. Police say many other categories could apply depending on how the victim explains the situation.
According to the Pueblo Police Department, there were four reported cases of extortion and harassment against adults and children in 2021. So far this year, the number of sextortion cases is on track to double in both categories. There were also nine reported cases of nude photos being posted online without consent. In 2022, there are already three reported cases.
However, those numbers could be higher. Not everyone that's a victim files charges and sometimes sextortion crimes are reported under different categories. Currently, there's no criminal category for sextortion crimes.
Additionally, ICAC says only 13% of reported sextortion incidents are reported to law enforcement.
"Unfortunately there is sometimes where sometimes it's not even reported due to the sensitive nature of the images or video...some people don't even report it cause they're embarrassed of the situation but yet they're still being harassed or exploited by these people," said Sgt. Ortega.
Police encourage parents to talk to their children about the meaning of sextortion.
"I want to let parents know what your kid is doing on the Internet, what images they're posting, what kind of conversation, what type of websites they're visiting," said Sgt. Ortega.
In addition to extortion cases, Sgt. Ortega said he's seen couples use nude images they have as revenge when they break up.
"Unfortunately, some of these people utilize these images - these videos - as revenge porn," said Sgt. Ortega.
Ortega said situations involving the sextortion of a minor are a felony and are taken very seriously. If you know of a child being exploited, contact your local FBI office or call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it here.