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Police warn of sextortion and webcam blackmail

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Police are warning of sextortion and the dangers associated with interacting with someone you don’t know online after a vulnerable man in East Sussex was blackmailed via social media.

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 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 will then threaten to share the images with the victim’s friends and family.This can make victims feel embarrassed and ashamed, and prevent them from coming forward to report the incident.

On Tuesday, 21 April, police received report that a vulnerable man in his twenties in the Eastbourne area was contacted by a stranger on social media and they began talking.

The victim was asked to show intimate parts of his body on webcam during a video call, which he did when asked. He was then threatened and told that the video would be shared with his friends and family if he did not pay €75,000 (£65,550).

Thankfully the victim did not pay any money and contacted police. The matter is being investigated and the victim has been provided with support and fraud prevention advice.

PC Bernadette Lawrie, Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer for Sussex and Surrey Police said: “While sextortion can be committed by individuals, organised crime is commonly behind it. Perpetrators can be located anywhere, with many based overseas, targeting a number of people through dating sites or social media.  Criminals will always exploit any opportunity to extort money from unsuspecting members of our community.

“There is no guarantee that once the blackmail demand is met, there will not be further demands, or that the criminal will not post the video anyway.

“The consequences can range from embarrassment to humiliation and in extreme cases, have resulted in self-harm or even victims taking their own lives. Males and females of any age, anywhere, can become victims of this awful crime.

“We would urge anyone who has been the victim of cyber related blackmail to come forward and report it to police online or by calling 101 if they are vulnerable. Always dial 999 in an emergency. Victims can also report directly to Action Fraud.”

Advice tips to stay safe from sextortion and webcam blackmail:

  • 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
  • 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

Report crime to Sussex Police online or by calling 101.

For more information about Operation Signature, Sussex Police’s campaign to identify and protect vulnerable victims of fraud see the Force website here.