Police issue advice over rise in sextortion cases

Cumbria Police are urging people not to send intimate pictures of themselves to strangers following a rise in recent weeks of reports of ‘sextortion’ offences in the county.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where people are persuaded to send intimate images of themselves by someone they have had contact with on social media, messaging or dating apps.

This may be someone they think they have started a relationship with online but never met in person.

It then involves threatening to publish sexual information, photos or videos of the victim without their consent unless they agree to pay money.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Donnelly, Kidnap and Extortion lead said: “We are seeing an increase of sextortion scams, where people are being tricked in to sharing intimate photos online, then being blackmailed with threats that the images will be shared.

“We are urging people to prevent themselves from potentially becoming a victim of this type of offence by not sharing intimate images of themselves with people they are in no position to trust with such material.

“This is a national issue, which Cumbria is not immune to.

“Criminals are targeting people through dating apps on social media, or through messaging apps, webcams or pornography sites.

“They can be very persuasive in encouraging people to send pictures of themselves, before threatening to send those images to your friends and family if you do not pay up.”

Sextortion can be committed by individuals, but organised crime gangs are often behind it.

Detective Chief Inspector Donnelly added: “Often we are finding people are providing images to individuals who they have never met.

“The impact of such offending can be devastating for the individual, which is why it is so important people do not put themselves in such a position in the first place.”

If you think you’ve fallen victim to sextortion, don’t panic, help and support is available.

Advice:

  • Don’t panic.
  • Don’t pay.
  • Save the evidence: take screenshots.
  • Save messages and images.
  • Collect URL links to where the information is being shared online.
  • Report it to social media companies if communication happened on these channels. For example, Facebook or Instagram.
  • Report it to your internet service provider.
  • Block all communication with the person targeting you.

If you think you’ve been the victim of sextortion, contact Cumbria Police www.cumbria.police.uk/reportit or call 101


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