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Sextortion: Predators Playing Online Games Targeting Children

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The FBI recently reported an increase in gaming sextortion cases.

More than 200 million Americans play video games online, and more than a quarter are under 18. According to FBI data, those kids are increasingly becoming targets of sextortion.

"Sextortion is any time you have an adult contacting a minor on some kind of social media where they are enticing them to give compromising pictures of themselves," said FBI Assitant Special Agent Tim Wolford.

READ: Sacramento Man Gets 41 Years To Life On Multiple Counts Of Sexually Assaulting 6-Year-Old Child

The FBI issued a recent warning after seeing an uptick in sextortion on gaming sites. They've received more than 5,000 reports since 2015. In September, a multi-agency undercover investigation dubbed "Operation Open House" led to the arrest of 24 people for allegedly using Fortnite and Minecraft to lure and groom minors for sex.

Just a few weeks ago, a man pled guilty in federal court, accused of convincing a 12-year-old gaming partner to send sexually explicit photos. The FBI says his method was textbook online gaming sextortion.

"They will pretend to be a person of the same age, where they will befriend them and try to win their trust," Wolford said. "Sometimes you'll see them offering gifts or incentives to provide pictures."

He says they've seen targets as young as 7 years old, and once the first picture is sent, they use it to extort then for more.

ALSO: El Dorado County Man Charged With Sexual Abuse To Minors

"With the threat of 'I'm going to expose you with this one photo if you don't send more.' Then it can progress to acting out things on themself, or younger siblings or even family pets, we've seen a real downward spiral of that kind of behavior," Wolford said.

All the major gaming platforms do have password protections and parental controls, and the FBI says its critical to set those up and have the gaming talk with your child.

"Knowing the dangers that are out there can really make a difference," Wolford said.

The FBI warns that parents need to be familiar with the apps and games their kids using and have access to monitor their accounts. Additionally, parents should make sure their kids do not share any personal information, like the name of their school or where they live.

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