The Police Service of Northern Ireland want to take this opportunity to raise awareness of sextortion and the dangers associated with interacting with someone you don’t know online.
PSNI Detective Sergeant Rachel Miskelly said: “Sextortion is a form of blackmail where a perpetrator threatens to reveal intimate images of the victim online unless they give in to their demands. These demands are typically for money or further intimate images.
“Criminals might befriend victims online by using a fake identity and then persuade them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam. Criminals who then threaten to share the images with the victims’ friends and family. This can make the victims feel embarrassed and ashamed, and prevent them from coming forward to report the incident.
“While sextortion can be committed by individuals, organised crime is commonly behind it. Perpetrators can be located anywhere, targeting a number of people, targeting victims through dating apps, social media or webcams. Many are based overseas.
“For the criminal, this is a low risk way to make money and they can reach many victims easily online. Criminals will always exploit any opportunity to extort money from unsuspecting members of our community but together we can stop it.
“Police are committed to fully investigating this type of crime when it is reported to us; however, we want to do all we can to raise awareness so this doesn't happen at all. We also need victims of sextortion to report it.
“We would urge anyone who has been the victim of cyber related blackmail to come forward and report it to police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Even though it may be embarrassing, anybody who is the victim of such a crime should be reassured that we are able to deal with it.”
PSNI advice on online safety:
Do not share intimate videos online.
Do not get lured into compromising situations such as removing clothes or performing intimate acts online.
Always remember that what goes online may well stay online
Be wary about who you invite or accept invitations from on social networking sites. Do not accept friendship requests from complete strangers
Update the privacy settings on your social networking accounts so only people you know can view your account
Do not include any sensitive, private or confidential information in profiles
If you use online dating sites, choose those that offer the ability to email prospective dates using a service that conceals both parties' true email addresses
Quickly block nuisance and fraudulent users from further contact with you and also report them for abuse
If you become a victim of this type of scam, do not respond to the blackmailer's demands, but report the issue to the police and the relevant social networking site
If you think that you have been persuaded by anyone to part with payment details, contact your bank or card issuer immediately
Advice can be found on the Get Safe Online website at https://www.getsafeonline.org or https://www.psni.police.uk/advice_information/sextortion/.