It’s not just a game. That’s the warning the FBI has for parents tonight when it comes to online gaming.

Locally, federal agents said that they’re seeing an increase in sextortion that begins with a seemingly harmless video game.

Games such as Fortnite, Roblox, and Call of Duty allow players to interact with other players from around the world.

But the question remains, who is connecting with our kids, and what do they want?

What kid doesn’t love playing video games? The FBI is issuing a warning because predators are using these games to victimize children. It is happening right here in Erie.

“It’s very common, at least once a month we receive a phone call about a young teen being involved in some sort of scenario online,” said Jason Crouse, FBI Supervisory Special Agent.

The conversations usually start off harmless.

“They’ll act like either a 13-year-old boy or girl. Whatever age they are. And then they just really friend you,” said Kristin Cvernewski, FBI Victim Services.

The predator then suggests talking on another platform where pictures and videos can be exchanged.

“Sometimes the predators themselves are looking for money, other times it is sexual gratification,” Crouse said.

If the predator is able to convince a child to send a sexually explicit photo, the vicious cycle begins.

“The perpetrator will then say ‘If you do not send me more photos or more graphic photos, I will contact everybody in your friends list on Facebook or Instagram and I will send them this picture, this compromising picture that you’ve already sent me,'” said Crouse.

In 2018, federal agents said that Gregory Mancini, a local teacher, used the game Fortnite to target a young boy.

Mancini allegedly traveled from Erie to Atlanta to meet a 13-year-old boy.

Mancini eventually pleaded guilty. He was busted after the victim told his mom.

Unfortunately, many children are too afraid or ashamed to say something if things get out of control.

“That stress, that violation that they feel having personal things out there. It’s a lot. Unfortunately, we have seen an uprise in suicide because of it,” Cvernewski said.

If you notice a change in your child’s behavior and suspect that they may have fallen victim, don’t wait.

“Report it to law enforcement. Don’t delete anything. Save whatever you have there because the more information we have, the faster we can get to these people,” said Cvernewski.

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For more information on how to protect your child from online predators, click here.