Let’s talk about sex!
Not in a 90’s, Salt-N-Pepa fashion, let’s talk about the growing phenomenon of “Sextortion”. This form of blackmail is predominantly occurring towards young men online, who have been coerced into performing sexual acts in front of a webcam. With a record number of British men being targeted by ‘sextortionists’ – more than 900 cases reported last year – Police are now launching a campaign to raise awareness of the problem.
So how are so many men falling for the same, deceptively simple trick? It’s no secret that sex sells, and there is certainly no shortage of pornographic material to be found on the web as an alternative.
Typically, the intended victim is approached through social media or dating apps by an attractive young woman who is, more often than not, being made to do this by an organised criminal gang. The young woman will then begin offering friendship, suggestive images and explicit conversation. This conversation relies upon a certain level of trust being built with the victim, with both parties often requesting proof of identity. The webcam is an immediate way of overcoming this identity hurdle but ultimately it’s also the trapping device used by criminal gangs to obtain compromising material on the victims.
The criminals will then threaten to share the illicit video amongst the victims’ family and friends, unless a sum of money is paid. This form of social media blackmail is horribly effective, leaving ashamed or embarrassed victims with seemingly little recourse.
New figures from the National Crime Agency (NCA) indicate that the number of reported webcam blackmails has more than doubled from last year. This year, at least four suicides in the UK have been linked to this type of bribery, with the NCA saying it believed the crime was being significantly under-reported and that actual numbers were likely to be much higher.
If you, or someone you know is a victim of Sextortion, here’s what should you do:
- Don’t Panic! The local police will take your case seriously, will deal with it in confidence and will not judge you for being in this situation.
The non-emergency number for the UK is: 101.
- Don’t pay. Blackmail is a crime, you must never pay the offender. Many victims have continued to get demands for higher amounts of money. If you have already paid, check to see if the money has been collected. If it has, and if you are able, then make a note of where it was collected from. If it hasn’t, cancel the payment.
- Don’t communicate. Any further with the criminals. Take screen shots of all communication. Suspend your Facebook account (but don’t delete it) and use the online reporting process to report the matter to Facebook, Skype, YouTube etc.
- Preserve evidence. Make a note of all details provided by the offenders, for example; the Skype name (particularly the Skype ID), the Facebook URL; the Western Union or MoneyGram Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN); any photos/videos that were sent, etc. Be aware that the scammer’s Skype name is different to their Skype ID, and it’s the ID details that police will need. To get that, right click on their profile, select ‘View Profile’ and then look for the name shown in blue rather than the one above it in black. It’ll be next to the word ’Skype’ and will have no spaces in it. DO NOT DELETE ANY CORRESPONDENCE.
Remember you’re not alone and confidential support is available. If you’re under -18, report it to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command – or CEOP for short. You can also seek help and guidance from:
- PAPYRUS provides confidential advice and support and works to prevent young suicide in the UK.
- Samaritans to talk any time you like in your own way and off the record
- Get Safe Online
- Revenge Porn Helpline