I don’t know how many of you follow the news but over here in the United Kingdom, we have been witnessing a rise in an online sex blackmailing scam known by the police and media as sextortion.
Victims are being lured into exposing themselves or committing sex acts online by pretty young women after accepting their friendship requests on social networking sites.
They then face payment demands of hundreds of pounds – or threats that recordings of their behaviour will be sent to work colleagues, family and friends whose contact details they have unwittingly given access to. The scams, which have been on the rise for the past 18 months, has led to tragedy with as many as four men having recently committed suicide because of the threats. At least two of the suicides were kids of no more than 17 years old.
Martin Hewitt, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “We started to see it emerging about 18 months ago.
“Last year we had about 300 offences recorded in the UK and we’re now this year over 900, and I suspect there’s a significant number that don’t get reported because the crime is preying on people’s embarrassment and their humiliation of being caught out doing something like this.”
Schoolboy Ronan Hughes, 17, was tricked into sending intimate photographs of himself, then faced a demand for £3,000 to avoid exposure.
He killed himself even though he had revealed the threat to his parents and police in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
Daniel Perry, from Dunfermline, also 17, took his own life after threats to reveal his compromising online conversations.
Organised crime groups in the Philippines, Morocco and Ivory Coast were discovered running many of the sextortion scams, some using British girls.
Most of the UK victims are men aged 18-24, the eldest was 82 and the youngest 14. Some women have also been targeted.
Police have issued advice to victims, urging them not to pay or panic, but to shut down their social media accounts and report what has happened. Senior officers insisted they will investigate and will not judge victims’ behaviour. The fear at the moment is that people are not reporting these crimes because of the fear of embarrassment but it is important you act. The internet is what it is. It can be a great place to network with other people from all around the world. It is a great place to share experiences and be all the best things humans can be. But there are also some very devious people out there. So make sure you act safe and think about what you share. Maybe I’m old fashioned but perhaps it would be better to save the nakedness for people you know and meet in person.