Published: 16:31, 07 January 2022
| Updated: 18:48, 07 January 2022
Online users have been told by criminals explicit images of themselves will be shared with friends and family if they do not hand over money.
There have been recent reports in east Kent of 'sextortion' which is a specific type of cyber-enabled crime in which victims are lured into recording themselves performing sexual acts.
Just recently, a victim in Canterbury reported unknown persons online were demanding money from him otherwise images of him would be sent to his friends and family.
Another victim in Ramsgate reported that they had met someone via an online dating website but were being told to send money or the videos and images they had of him would be sent.
A further victim from Ramsgate reported that explicit images of him were sent to friends and family after he refused to pay the suspect £250.
Unbeknown to victims, their actions are recorded by criminals who then use the video footage to blackmail them.
Generally, criminals request money and if demands are not met the offenders threaten to upload the recordings or images to the internet and send them to the victims’ friends and family.
Sometimes there are even escalating requests for further payment.
Det Insp Vanessa Law said: "Incidents of this nature are not exclusive to east Kent but following a number of recent reports in the area we are taking this opportunity to remind people of ways they can prevent themselves falling victim.
"We understand that victims may feel ashamed or embarrassed, but of course criminals are relying on that reaction to succeed.
"It is important that we raise awareness of this crime type and reassure victims that officers will take reports seriously and each case will be dealt with in confidence with no judgement made.
"The internet is an incredible resource but comes with its own set of unique dangers that we all need to be aware of.
"By following just a few simple measures we can protect ourselves from those who misuse technology to benefit from the misery of others."
Kent Police have since issued advice to help reduce the chances of falling victim to sextortion:
• Be very careful about who you befriend online, especially if you’re considering sharing anything intimate with them.
• The attractive person in the video chat may have been coerced themselves. A profile photo may be of someone completely different, or not represent a true location for the person. You could perform reverse image search for the profile image and see if it appears elsewhere on the web but in a different context, for instance it might be a stock photo of a model or of a background.
• Even being mindful of the above, it is still best not to share intimate images or sexual acts online even with people you know. Videos can be recorded, images can be saved or have screenshots made from them, and easily published online where they can be shared and copied further. Once images are out there, they are very difficult to get rid of. If it’s happened to you, don’t panic. You may naturally feel ashamed or embarrassed, but remember, you are the victim of organised criminals, you are not alone, and confidential support is available.
• Don’t pay up. The criminal may publish the compromising images anyway, or they may come back to you for more money.
• End all communication with the blackmailers.
• Contact police. You can do that using any of the non-emergency methods here.
• If you’re under 18, speak to an adult you trust immediately. They will support you. You can also get in touch with CEOP (the police Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command) by clicking here.