ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — For Torrie Walters, it all started with an Instagram message.

That eventually lead to her creating a relationship where she felt comfortable sending a nude photo.

“I would get threatened with ‘I’m going to send this to your coworkers, your family, your friends, your daughters, everyone’s going to see it,”‘ she explained.

The crime is called sextortion.

Walters sent the man the money he was asking for, but then he wanted more money, an amount she says grew to the thousands.

When she couldn’t come up with anymore cash, the unthinkable happened.

The man sent her nude photo to her father.

Now, St. Pete police are teaming up with the FBI after seeing an alarming increase in sextortion cases.

“They’ve sent these pictures to family members, they’ve put it online, they’ve sent it on school message boards,” FBI Tampa Division Special Agent in Charge David Walker said. “It’s gotten so bad we’ve had several suicides before we were aware of it because the victims were so distraught.”

St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway says his department has seen a “significant increase” in the crime.

“Our federal partners picked up on this and they said, ‘this isn’t just a St. Pete problem, this is a national problem,'” he said.

Now, he is teaming up with the FBI to crack down on the crime.

“In the last week alone, the FBI has opened 15 new cases like this,” Special Agent Walker said, referring specifically to cases in the Tampa Bay area. “Let me be very clear, this is organized.”

“There are gangs, often times outside of the us trolling on the internet looking for these kinds of victims luring them in,” he continued.

Special Agent Walker says he’s seeing kids as young as 9 years old victimized.

“I would say to parents, have that conversation with your children,” he said. “Anyone who is using the internet can potentially be victim and the best way to prevent this crime is to make sure it doesn’t occur.”

Their message is clear—with a united front, these criminals will end up behind bars.

“Thanks to our federal partners, we’ve got a lot of resources and assets available to us,” Chief Holloway said. “We will find you.”

“It may take time,” he continued. “But we will find you.”

For survivors like Walters, she says it’s important to call the police and reach out for help when you need it.

“I hate to say it, but it’s part of my story,” she said. “I wanted to end my life.”

“When I went to this program, Selah Freedom, they helped me gain my life back,” she continued. “I did a lot of trauma therapy, and that’s what really helped me.”

Selah Freedom is a non-profit organization focused on bringing freedom to the exploited.

The organization helps survivors of crimes like human trafficking or sextortion, and speaks publicly on how you can prevent falling victim to such crimes.

“When we go into schools and we talk about sextortion to youth, we make sure to let them know that the number one thing they should be doing is speaking up for themselves and going to a safe adult,” Hilda Arreola said.

If you’re a parent looking to be proactive in preventing your child from falling victim to these crimes, you can take part in Selah Freedom’s free online trainings.

If you believe you’re a victim of sextortion, call your local police department or the FBI.

If you need help recovering from the trauma associated with the crime, call Selah Freedom’s hotline 1-888-8-FREE-ME.