We are warning people to stay alert to cyber-blackmailers who threaten to post intimate photos or video footage online if money isn’t paid.
Officers attended the address of a teenage boy, from the Stoke-on-Trent area, to offer reassurance and advice after he recently fell victim to a ‘sextortion’ scam.
The teenager received social media messages from a fraudster threatening to share an explicit image with the victim’s friends and family if he didn’t hand over £500.
'Sextortion' is a form of blackmail. It involves threatening to publish sexual information, photos or videos about someone. This may be to extort money, or to force the victim to do something against their will. Photos or recordings are often made without the victim realising or consenting.
What to do if you have been targeted:
Don’t panic; help and support is available.
Save the evidence: Take screenshots and save messages and images. Collect URL links to where the information is being shared online if possible.
Report it to social media companies if communication happens on these channels. For example, Facebook or Instagram.
Report it to your internet service provider.
Block all communication with the person targeting you.
PC Nina Lovatt, from Stoke South LPT (local policing team), said: “Sextortion (a combination of sex and extortion) is sadly a fast growing crime trend. A lot of the people we visit who have fallen victim to this are younger adults. In most cases it causes them extreme stress and anxiety. Some have even expressed suicidal thoughts as a result.
“Criminals often target their victims through dating apps, social media, webcams or pornography sites. They may use a fake identity to befriend people online and then threaten to send images to their family and friends.
“We would encourage social media users to make their accounts private, not to accept messages from people they don’t know and always ensure they know who they are talking to online. Also, don’t be afraid to ask someone to confirm who they are and never feel pressured into doing something; whether this is of a sexual nature or something that could identify personal details.”