‘Don’t send nude pics after just a few clicks’ – police warning over ‘sextortion’ offences
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Northamptonshire Police is issuing a warning against sending intimate photos to people you’ve just met online, over concerns about the effects of so-called ‘sextortion’ offences on victims.
This term is used to describe blackmail cases where someone is encouraged or tricked into sharing personal images or video and is then threatened with exposure unless they send the criminal money.
Over the past three months the Force has received an average of almost four sextortion reports a week, but the true scale of this crime is likely to be much larger due to under-reporting.
Victims typically report feeling fear, anxiety, and shame in relation to sextortion offences, with some revealing the experience has driven them to contemplate self-harm or suicide.
To help people stay safe and avoid falling foul of a sextortion attempt, Northamptonshire Police is sharing prevention advice and encouraging victims to report it and seek support and help.
Detective Inspector Simon Barnes, who leads on tackling extortion offences for Northamptonshire Police, said: “Sextortion is not a new issue, and sadly we are seeing a lot of victims falling foul of internet scammers out to exploit others for cash.
“Typically, these offences happen when someone is contacted by a stranger online, maybe through a random approach on social media, or through online dating platforms.
“Using a fake profile, often with attractive images, the offender pretends to be sexually interested in the victim and leads them to believe they want to see a photo or webcam video of them naked or performing sexual acts.
“The victim obliges, only to then receive demands for money, or face the risk of their images being shared with social media contacts, family or friends.
“In rare cases, even when people have paid over money, images are still sometimes shared, often causing utter devastation and lasting emotional harm to victims.”
Sextortion victims tend to be male and aged from young teens to men in their 40s, but the Force has also received reports from much older victims and women as well.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim of sextortion is to be very careful about who you befriend online, especially if you’re considering sharing anything intimate.
DI Barnes said: “We know lots of people use the internet for flirting or dating, but it’s so important to not get swept up in the thrill of this and send potentially compromising content to strangers, especially if you’ve only recently begun talking to them.
“If you have shared intimate images and find yourself being blackmailed as a result, please report it immediately to the police and try not to panic – you are a victim and it is not your fault. Sextortion is often carried out by sophisticated criminals who are very convincing.”
Victims are advised against paying up – there’s no guarantee that offenders will not post the pictures or recording, and are in fact more likely to come back with further demands.
It’s also advised to stop communicating with the blackmailer – replying indicates that you can be persuaded to pay up. Instead, keep all the evidence of what has happened to you and report it to police, who as well as investigating what has happened, can also offer advice and help.
If you are struggling to cope, seek additional support – victims under 18 are encouraged to talk to a trusted adult, and further support is also available via Child Exploitation Online Protection.