DARTMOUTH — Dartmouth Police are reminding younger residents to refrain from sending inappropriate or compromising photos to strangers online amid a reported spike in extortion.

The message comes in an announcement posted Sunday to the department's Facebook, in which police state there has been a recent increase in teens and young adults reporting demands of cash from strangers on Instagram, Snapchat, and other apps.

"Within the last three weeks, we've seen three of them," said Det. Kyle Costa, who posted the message to the department's page. "And I know another local agency has seen two within the same time period."

Costa called it an "online scam," noting that the scheme has been around for a while and seems to be making its way around again.

According to his post, the demands come after the victims send compromising photos — and in a typical lighthearted style, the post asks, "What the heck has happened to the courtship process?"

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According to the department, "all it takes is a dirtbag with a fake profile asking someone for a picture of their junk," and people can find themselves vulnerable.

In most of these cases, the department noted in the post, the scammers are never found.

Costa noted that parents "should absolutely be worried," saying that while police are investigating, the responsibility also falls on parents and guardians to watch what their kids are doing and explain the dangers of social media.

But he also tries to inject humor and personality into the posts, he said, because he wants people to spread the message.

"I try to put a funny spin on it because then I know it'll be shared," Costa said.

The post reads, "your junk, no matter how much you filter it, pose it, enlarge it, or dress it up with a bowtie, top hat or bunny ears, IS NOT impressive."

It concludes with a request for kids to use their heads when sending anything personal over the internet.

The public service announcement currently has more than 330 likes and 150 shares on Facebook.

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