A WARNING has been issued after police in Wiltshire have seen a rise in cyber-sex crimes with sextortion cases tripling.
Wiltshire Police says since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic it has seen an increase in the number of people targeted by both sexualised phishing emails and crimes of sextortion.
The number of sextortion incidents reported reported to the force have approximately tripled in the last year to date.
Detective Inspector Gemma Vinton said: “Many people enjoy the social side of the internet and it can be a great place to talk and interact with others. We do, however, all need to be aware that not everyone on the internet is who they say they are, and there are people out there whose only reason to be online is to cause harm to others.
“We have seen an increase in sexualised phishing emails, and would urge people not to worry about this, but to forward the email to the suspicious email reporting service run by the National Cyber Security Centre.”
Phishing is where people receive emails encouraging them to click on links and share sensitive information or open attachments which often contain ransomware to encrypt files. Sexualised phishing emails try to convince you that your computer has been compromised by listing technical details, and suggesting you have been recorded when visiting adult content websites.
Often criminals will list a password they have obtained via an historic data breach to try to put some legitimacy into their claim, or will attach a document claiming to be “proof”. This is all in an attempt to scare the victim into paying money, where the sender has no such recordings and attachments are malicious software.
Sextortion predominately targets those using their devices to find romance online, or who are online dating. It involves using webcams and cameras to send intimate pictures or videos. Often criminals will use online applications to befriend people using fake identities to pretend to be someone else, and will encourage them to send intimate pictures or perform sexual acts on a web cam.
Sexual acts carried out are recorded or saved by the criminals, who then threaten to share the content with friends and family unless a payment is made.
Wiltshire Police’s Digital Investigations and Intelligence Unit (DIIU) is appealing to the public to think before they share online.
DI Vinton added: “We have also seen an increase in the serious and distressing crime of sextortion. This could happen to anyone, but those predominantly targeted tend to be younger men aged between 17 and 25, and men over the age of 60.
“I would urge the public to stop and think before sharing intimate photos or videos, or taking part in intimate activities online. Please be aware that the person you are communicating with may not be who they say they are, and don’t let the heat of the moment cause you to make rash decisions to take part in activities that could lead you susceptible to blackmail attempts.
“However if you do become a victim of sextortion, please do not panic, do not pay, do not communicate any further, and report it to the police. We appreciate that it can be embarrassing, but these criminals will look to exploit others, and it’s important that we do everything we can to identify and stop them to prevent other people falling victim to their crime.”
Sexualised phishing emails can be reported to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) email@example.com.
Further help and support for victims of sextortion is available from the National Crime Agency at nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/what-we-do/crime-threats/kidnap-and-extortion/sextortion-webcam-blackmail
For more information about preventing cybercrime go to wiltshire.police.uk/article/6081/Sexualised-Phishing-and-Sextortion