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Police warn of an increase in online sextortion cases in Dorset

In the last two months, Dorset Police has seen a spate of reported online sextortion and revenge porn cases, and is asking the public to be aware of the possible consequences of their online behaviour.

Sextortion (a combination of sex and extortion) is blackmailing a victim not to post intimate photos or videos on social networking, photo-sharing or revenge porn websites.

Over the last two months Dorset Police has investigated 18 cases of online sextortion, mainly involving male victims, and five cases of revenge porn.

The blackmailer could be an ex-partner, or someone you have met on a social network or dating website. It is common for someone to trick their victim in to capturing revealing webcam footage, and this is often carried out by criminal gangs posing as individuals looking for romance. 

In the case of webcam blackmail, the victim may not even know they are being recorded as the camera can be activated by spyware.

The perpetrators threaten to reveal the pictures unless they receive money from the victim.

These individuals and groups are using sophisticated technology not only to manipulate the images that a victim sees to perpetrate the scam, but they are using the same technology to conceal their identity and location.

Dorset Police Director of Intelligence, Detective Superintendent Mark Callaghan said: “The problem we have with locating the perpetrators of sextortion offences is the suspects will often hack in to other people’s accounts and use a variety of methods to disguise their location.

“Most of the offenders are believed to be abroad in a variety of countries including USA, Ghana, Ivory Coast and the Philippines. We have, however, located and arrested two local offenders and more arrests are likely in the near future.”

Dorset Police warn it is better that the public are made aware of these scams and are equipped to protect themselves from becoming victims of these crimes.

Detective Superintendent Mark Callaghan continued: “It is important that the public recognise the potential risks of their online behaviour.

“Dorset Police, in partnership with Get Safe Online, has released some tips to avoid falling victim to these distressing crimes:

  • Don’t respond to blackmail threats.
  • Be very clear about the potential outcomes of having intimate photos or videos taken of yourself, even if by somebody you trust and are close to.
  • Don’t take your clothes off or perform intimate acts in front of your webcam.
  • If a compromising photo or video appears on a website or social media site, report the images and ask for them to be removed and the perpetrator to be blocked.
  • However difficult it is, don’t be too embarrassed or ashamed to report sextortion, otherwise it will probably continue and others may become victims too.
  • Ensure you have up-to-date internet security software loaded and switched on, to avoid the possibility of someone remotely controlling your webcam.

Dorset Police is encouraging everyone to visit GetSafeOnline and cybersafe.dorset.police.uk for help and advice on online safety.

If intimate photos or video of you are posted online against your will report it to Dorset Police by calling 101.

Issued: 27 August 2015