The FBI is warning parents to be aware that teenage boys are increasingly becoming the target for online sextortion by cybercriminals.

On Thursday, FBI field officers across the United States issued a warning that online predators are increasingly targeting young boys over social media to produce compromising sexual media of them to extort money out of them.

According to the bureau, the criminals often pose as teenage girls to entice boys between the ages of 14 and 17 over video games, apps or social media. They work to entice the boys into performing a sexually explicit act on camera or video, which they secretly record and then use for blackmail.

The FBI says that many of the targets are often overseas and will often demand money in increasing amounts if any is sent during the initial request. Using data from crimes reported to the Internet Criminal Complaint Center (IC3), the bureau said that 13,000 sextortion schemes were recorded in 2021 and they produced losses of up to $13.6 million dollars.

It is likely these numbers only scratch the surface of the number of sextortion crimes that are taking place. The FBI itself previously acknowledged that its figures are likely incomplete because of underreporting because of the fear of the criminal or the reaction of loved ones and law enforcement.

This can come with tragic consequences, including suicide in the case of a 17-year-old Michigan teenager after he was victimized in a sextortion scheme.

By releasing this warning now, the FBI hopes that it can aid in protecting more teenagers from becoming victims in the future. It is also aimed at encouraging victims to approach law enforcement without fear of negative repercussions.

“With the ubiquitous nature of modern technology, our children are increasingly vulnerable targets for online predators,” said Kristi Johnson, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Los Angeles Division. “The most effective way to disrupt these criminals is through awareness, education, and having important discussions with your children about their online safety."