Humberside Police are currently investigating about 60 cases of extortion. In the first of a series of features with the force putting Cyber Crime in the spotlight, we look at the rising offence.
Humberside Police are currently investigating scores of cases of sextortion – when an offender demands money or other favours after luring their victim into taking off their clothes and/or performing sexual acts in front of a webcam.
It’s a terrifying crime – and it’s on the rise.
It is how countless people have found themselves on the receiving end of blackmailers who trick people into getting naked online, only to threaten to post the pictures or videos to their friends and family unless they pay up – in some cases demanding thousands of pounds.
The cases the force is investigating include a Grimsby man who was blackmailed by “Laura” who he had met via an online dating app.
After chatting they agreed to exchange sexually explicit videos but it was only after she requested a video in which she could see the 30-year-old’s face that her true intentions became clear.
As soon as she had received it she immediately stopped the chat and demanded he paid her an unspecified amount of money via Western Union transfer or she’d post the video online.
He refused and cut off contact with “Laura” before reporting what had happened to police.
Luckily, in this case no money was sent, but many people are so scared what will happen if their family and friends see what they have been doing, they pay up without question.
Some of the blackmailers even make further threats to claim that children were involved to try and scare their victims into handing over their money.
Detective Inspector Kev Foster said: “Reports indicate that this is a growing problem, with thousands of victims across the world – including those living in the Humberside force area.
“However, we do know that given the nature of these offences and the embarrassment victims feel, many don’t come forward.
“I would urge anyone targeted in this way – whether they hand over any money or not – to contact police straight away.
“There are steps we can take to investigate these kind of crimes and we are working closely with the National Crime Agency to share information and collate a picture of this kind of offending at a national level.”
There are also a number of steps you can take to help prevent yourself from being targeted by similar cons.
Remember that not everyone online is who they claim to be.
Don’t ‘friend’ people you don’t know in real life. You don’t know who they really are or what their intentions are.
Be wary of using private chat rooms and don’t enter into sexual exchanges.
Don’t respond to messages that are provocative or threatening.
If someone is aggressive or inappropriate online, most social networking sites have tools to help you block or delete that person.
Don’t be embarrassed about seeking help if you need it. Acting quickly can limit the damage if you have sent out something you regret.
You can always deactivate your account.
Change your social media account security settings to prevent:
‘Everyone’ being able to find and add you as a friend and send you messages
Search engines from finding your account profile
‘Everyone’ from being able to view your posts, view the posts you have been tagged in and the posts that you have shared.