SAN DIEGO – A recent uptick in sextortion attempts targeting children on the internet prompted the San Diego FBI to issue a warning this week to parents and caregivers.

The bureau said it is receiving reports of adults posing as young girls on social media, apps and games to coerce young boys to produce sexually explicit videos or photos and then extorting them for money. It’s a serious crime, according to the FBI, and one that comes with heavy costs for families.

More than 18,000 sextortion-related complaints were filed last year with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, tallying losses of some $13.6 million, the agency reported.

In a release, the FBI urged children to come forward to a trusted adult or law enforcement if they’ve been a victim of a sextortion scheme. While the agency notes it may be embarrassing to do so, offenders often target hundreds of victims, so any information to help identify suspects benefits investigators.

“Children must be mindful of who they are communicating with online, regardless of the game or social media platform,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy was quoted as saying. “Education and awareness are key to combatting this evolving threat and we want families to take part in these important discussions regarding online safety.”

Moy added, “Reporting these incidents to law enforcement will help to prevent it from happening to someone else.”

For those who may have been a victim of a sextortion scheme, the bureau encourages them to contact the local FBI field office. In San Diego, the FBI office is at 10385 Vista Sorrento Parkway and can be reached by calling 858-320-1800. Tips also can be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov.

Other tips include not deleting anything before law enforcement can review it and being willing to tell law enforcement about online encounters even if the information is embarrassing.

Click or tap here to read more about the FBI’s efforts to stop sextortion.