By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s called “sextortion” and it’s the latest troubling trend involving the exploitation of children on the Internet.

It starts when a young person puts their first compromising picture on the Internet.

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A pedophile who finds it will then demand additional pictures. If those images are not delivered, he will threaten to contact the young person’s parents or spread the picture virally, according to Bruce Foucart, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security in Boston.

Students outside a local high school admit that many racy pictures are being shared. One boy said he gets nudes of girls all the time. And a female student said boys send her pictures of their private areas all the time.

Once a pedophile gets his hands on the photo, the student is left with a choice of private humiliation versus public embarrassment.

Many young men are finding themselves in this situation as well.

Homeland Security Investigations has an elite unit in Boston that has cracked international cases of child exploitation.

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Many of the agents work undercover and couldn’t be shown on camera. One agent explained how the intricate code associated with one cell phone picture could lead them to saving a victim.

“We can isolate the date that the actual offense took place,” he explained.

As pedophiles start trading images, clues are left along the trail that they might not realize.

For example, one agent examining a disturbing video noticed a swirl pattern in the carpeting. He was then able to trace that rug to a hotel room in California and that resulted in a significant arrest.

The stuffed bunny in a photo connected a pedophile in Milford with an international ring operating out of Amsterdam. “We are still able to find very unique bits and pieces that are only specific to certain areas,” explained the researcher.

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