BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigators said they’re seeing an uptick in sexting cases targeting teenagers.

Suspects are gathering embarrassing information from unsuspecting young people and then blackmailing them.

Captain Jason Daffin with BCSO said the new scam is targeting teens ages 13 to 17 years old.

Officials said scammers will build a relationship with their victims and eventually talk them into sending explicit photos.

The scammer will then blackmail the child by demanding hundreds of dollars, threatening to release the photos if they don’t pay up.

“Sometimes the kids will tell them, I don’t have that kind of money and they’ll start negotiating and we’ll have them take as much as 10 dollars in payment for the pictures,” Capt. Daffin said.

Capt. Daffin said the interaction usually starts with Snapchat, but then jumps to other apps.

“They need that friends list to know who all they can share it to and get leverage over the individual they’re trying to victimize,” Daffin said.

The suspects are usually out of the country, making it difficult for investigators to track down the bad guys. But that doesn’t mean they’re letting it slide.

“As far as law enforcement goes, we’re not gonna let people prey on our children,” Capt. Daffin said.

Capt. Daffin said the best way to prevent these crimes is by educating the public.

“The best thing we can do is try to get the message out there to parents, to have a talk with your kid and try to instill in them that if they don’t know the person, don’t accept friend requests,” Capt. Daffin said.

Capt. Daffin said even if the kids end up paying, the scammers will sometimes post the pictures anyway.