The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning parents about their children's vulnerability to online sextortion.
The agency highlights the case of a 32-year-old Mexican citizen living in Georgia as a permanent resident as an example of why parents need to monitor their child's internet access and social media activities.
According to the FBI, Gerardo Uribe posed as a 13-year-old boy and later as a 25-year-old when he coerced a 12-year-old girl to produce child pornography and send it to him. The FBI says Uribe was able to get the girl to send a partially nude image of herself in 2014 and was eventually able to gain access to one of her social media accounts by resetting her password and locking her out.
With the photo and control of her account, Uribe extorted the girl to send four sexually explicit images. The girl's parents found out and reported the crime to law enforcement.
Uribe was arrested and sentenced last November to 10 years in prison. Once his term is served, he will be deported. Investigators found Uribe also tried to victimize at least one other girl.
The FBI says this is just one example of a "growing problem on social media sites."
Last year, Middle Tennessee authorities said the suspect and victim of a sex crime were both victims of an international online sextortion scheme. International law enforcement said Paul Leighton, of the United Kingdom, posed as a child and forced kids to abuse other kids by using blackmail. Two of those victims were from Bedford County, according to the sheriff's office.
The Coffee County Sheriff's Department is continuing to tirelessly investigate a person(s) that is contacting several young children in the area. The person is sending very crude sexual and threatening messages through various social media and online gaming sites.
They are also asking parents to pay close attention to your child's cellular phone especially text messages.
The FBI advises parents to routinely monitor internet access and keep computers in common areas of the home. The agency also suggests parents insist on knowing passwords and PIN codes to any online devices.
Don't Become a Victim of Sextortion:
Special Agent Larry Meyer and other investigators experienced in online child sexual exploitation cases offer these simple tips for young people who might think that sextortion could never happen to them:
*~ Whatever you are told online may not be true, which means the person you think you are talking to may not be the person you really are talking to.
*~ Don't send pictures to strangers. Don't post any pictures of yourself online that you wouldn't show to your grandmother. "If you only remember that," Meyer said, "you are probably going to be safe."
*~ If you are being targeted by an online predator, tell someone. If you feel you can't talk to a parent, tell a trusted teacher or counselor. You can also call the FBI, the local police, or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CyberTipline.
*~ You might be afraid or embarrassed to talk with your parents, but most likely they will understand.
"One of the common denominators," Meyer noted, "was that parents wished their daughters had told them sooner."