SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Manlius Police have learned that teens are being targeted in the East Syracuse Minoa and Fayetteville Manlius school districts as sextortion cases are on the rise in Onondaga County.

A teen could easily feel there is no way out once a predator gains access to their Snapchat account and retrieves photos, then demands the teen to send money, gift cards, or more photos, or else. 

“They would have their photographs, or videos or whatever they obtained from the student’s account, posted online, publically for others to see,” said Town of Manlius Police Sgt. Ken Hatter.

They might also be tricked into thinking their chatting online with kids their own age and manipulated into sending sexually explicit photos.

It’s called sextortion. A predator can victimize children in their own homes through devices they use for gaming, homework and connecting with friends. 

The Department of Justice says more than 3,000 children were targeted in the U.S. last year. The FBI believes most of the schemes come from outside of the U.S. and the blackmailers take multiple steps to obscure their identity. 

“We have not identified an individual, we have a few leads we are looking into, hopefully, we can find the person or persons involved in this,” said Sgt. Hatter.

Tragically, this type of sextortion can result in a sense of separation, and nationwide, more than a dozen teens took their own lives last year from it.

“There is a fear of other students or the general public seeing these photos and I definitely think there’s a mental health toll, I mean there’s shame, embarrassment, the fear of maybe even facing their parents because their parents don’t know,” Sgt. Hatter explained.

Sgt. Hatter says it’s important for parents to let their teens know, they’re not in trouble. They’re not alone. 

“Don’t suffer in silence, this applies in all aspects of life, but I would definitely make sure you report this to someone,” Sgt. Hatter added.

So parents, be on the lookout for predators and have conversations with your kids. 

Manlius Police are aware of one teen in the Fayetteville-Manlius school district and four other teens in the East Syracuse-Minoa school district that have come forward.