The Police Service of Northern Ireland has urged people to remain vigilant about sextortion and the dangers associated with interacting with someone you don’t know online.
And it has also issued advice to people who use online dating sites, saying they should set up a new email account that doesn’t use their real name.
Detective Sergeant Higgins 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.
“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.
“We believe these types of crimes are generally under reported and that in some cases, people prefer to pay money rather than contact police. 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
· Also on dating sites, set up a separate email account that does not use your real name. This is very simple and quick to do using such providers as Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or Gmail
· 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/.
If you would like to speak to anyone concerning any issues you may have please call the 101 number.