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Detectives urge awareness of sextortion – to help take power away from criminals behind the cruel scam

Detectives urge awareness of sextortion – to help take power away from criminals behind the cruel scam

Detectives in South Wales Police are warning about a spate of cases of so-called sextortion – where victims are blackmailed with the threat of explicit images of themselves being shared, unless they pay money – that have been reported in recent weeks.

Sextortion is a form of online blackmail. The criminals behind it use a number of different approaches to try and extort money from their victims – by persuading, pressurising, or manipulating them into taking and sending nude or semi-nude images or videos of themselves. Once the criminal has their hands on these, they threaten to release them to the victims’ loved ones, unless money is paid.

Sometimes, criminals pretend to be someone interested in starting a relationship, often creating a fake online profile to do so, which might eventually lead to the exchanging of intimate images. Again, though, their criminal intent is the same.

In other cases, criminals clone or impersonate the accounts of someone known to their victim, who then may believe that they know who they are talking to. Again, once this progresses to the sharing of intimate images, the criminal uses these to extort money.

Sextortion can be committed by individuals, but organised crime gangs are usually behind it. They often target people through dating apps, social media, webcams, or pornography sites. If a person you’ve just met online chats to you in a sexual way, or asks for sexual images, it might be an attempt at sextortion. You should be wary if someone you’ve met online:

  • is trying to start a relationship with you very quickly (they may even send you a sexual image first)
  • has sent friend requests to lots of people, not just you
  • repeatedly asks you to do sexual things that you’re not comfortable with
  • tells you they’ve hacked your account or have access to your contacts

Sextortion attempts can happen very quickly, or they can happen over a long time. You should never share sexual images or information about yourself if you are not comfortable.

Anyone can be a victim of sextortion. However, young people aged between 15 to 17, and adults aged under 30 are often most at risk.

DS Nicola Richards, from South Wales Police’s Economic and Cyber Crime Unit, said:

“Sextortion is a cruel crime carried out by those who have no regard whatsoever for devastation they may cause to their victim.

“If you are a victim of sextortion, remember that it’s never your fault. You’ve done nothing wrong, so please don’t panic – remember that there is help and support available.

“Our advice is that you should stop all communication with the offender immediately. Don’t pay, even if you are tempted, as there is no guarantee that this will stop the threats. As the offender’s motive is to get money, once you have shown you can pay, they may well ask for more, and the blackmail may continue. If you have paid, though, again don’t panic – but don’t pay anything more.

“You should also save the evidence. Take screenshots, save messages and images, and make a note of usernames, email addresses, phone numbers and bank account numbers. Avoid deleting anything: try not to delete anything that could be used as evidence.

“And, if possible, collect URL links to where your images or information is being shared online.

“We’d also encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with this type of crime. Learn how you can spot the signs of when someone close to you may be being targeted, how you can support young people, and encourage them to seek help if it is needed.

“It’s vital that there is no stigma surrounding this topic – by doing this, we can take power away from those cruel and manipulative perpetrators.”

Earlier this year, the National Crime Agency circulated an alert to hundreds of thousands of teachers in the UK in response to an increase in global cases of sextortion.

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Team @ AberdareOnline

Team @ AberdareOnline

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