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Dorset Police warn of increasing online sextortion

30 November 2016
Dorset Police are reminding the public to be aware of their online behaviour and how to avoid becoming a victim of sextortion.

Sextortion (a combination of sex and extortion) is where a victim is blackmailed to pay money to prevent intimate videos or photos of them being posted on social networking, photo-sharing or revenge porn websites, or from being forwarded to others. In some cases, blackmailers have demanded more intimate photos or videos be supplied by the victim rather than money. 

The blackmailer could be an ex-partner or someone who the victim has met or spoken to and has previously shared photos and videos with. It is also increasingly common for organised gangs to pose as individuals looking for romance and trick victims into capturing intimate webcam footage, often without them even knowing they have been recorded, as cameras can be activated by spyware.

A variation on sextortion is revenge porn, where an angry or jealous ex-partner posts intimate photos or videos of a victim online, simply to cause upset or humiliation rather than for any financial gain.

In the first six months of 2016, Dorset Police received 20 reports of online sextortion, mainly involving male victims. Dorset Police Director of Intelligence, Detective Superintendent Jez Noyce said: “Reports of sextortion are increasing nationally, along with other types of cyber-enabled crime and it is important that the public are equipped with the knowledge to prevent themselves from becoming victims.

“Be aware of the possible consequences of your online behaviour and the potential outcomes of having intimate photos or videos taken of yourself, even by somebody you are close to. The best advice is to not take your clothes off or perform intimate acts in front of your webcam at all, whether you think you have switched it to record or not.

“Tighten the privacy settings on your social media accounts and ensure you have security software loaded and switched on. This will significantly reduce the risk of being targeted by sextortion and many other similar forms of cyber-crime, including the possibility of someone remotely controlling your webcam. 

“Cyber-criminals see sextortion as an easy way of making money. Ensure you talk to your family and friends so that they are aware of sextortion scams too.”

Sextortion criminals use sophisticated technology not only to manipulate what a victim sees so that they can commit the scam, but also technology which can conceal their identity and location. Detective Superintendent Jez Noyce continues: “If you do become a victim of sextortion, don’t respond to blackmail threats. Often victims who do pay continue to get demands for higher amounts and the photos or videos are shared anyway. 

“However difficult it is, do not be too embarrassed or ashamed to report sextortion, otherwise the demands may continue and others could become victims too. You have been the victim of a sophisticated crime and will not be judged for being in this situation. Dorset Police will take your case seriously and will deal with it in confidence. Even if you do not want to pursue a prosecution, please still report sextortion as we need information about the criminals to stop them.”

The National Crime Agency (NCA) have created a video demonstrating how easy it is to become a victim of sextortion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgKIZjzoLLQ

Visit dorset.police.uk/cybersafe for more information and advice.

If anyone has intimate photos or videos posted of them online against their will they should report it to Dorset Police online by visiting dorset.police.uk or by calling 101.

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