Around 75-80 sextortion cases being reported to PSNI each month this year - public asked to be 'on your guard'
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The alarming statistics come as police ask the public to be on their guard following increasing reports of online blackmail of an intimate or sexual nature.
This blackmail is commonly known as ‘sextortion’.
Detective Chief Inspector David McBurney said: “Typically, a person uses a false identity to befriend a victim via social media.
"The exchange may start with flirting or flattery, but ends with the victim coaxed into sending intimate images or performing sexual acts online, unwittingly in front of a camera.
“Behind the fake and attractive guise, there’s a criminal.
"These people are often part of sophisticated and organised crime groups, mostly based overseas.
"They extort their victims by threatening to share those images or recordings unless demands for money are met.”
Detective Chief Inspector McBurney added: “While we know that sextortion can affect anyone, the majority of victims are young men, aged between 18 and 23.
“Innocent people are left feeling humiliated and distraught, but the important message is that victims shouldn’t let embarrassment stop them from reporting what’s happened.”
He added: “My message, in the first instance, is to be on your guard.
"Please be aware of the risks of sharing intimate images online, and if someone is pushing you to do this, then alarm bells should be ringing.#
“But people do make mistakes, no one is infallible, and if you’ve been a victim of sextortion, then you’re certainly not alone.
“Don’t panic; don’t respond to demands; and don’t enter into further communication. If you can, confide in a trusted friend or family member, and please contact officers immediately on 101.”
When asked how many sextortion cases were received by the PSNI since 2019, a spokesman explained:
Breakdown of range of incidents per month:Year: Range of reports2019: 5-102020: 10-152021: 35-402022: 45-502023: 75-80
They added: “For Guidance: May we just clarify that the figures cannot be cited as official NISRA stats. By way of background, sextortion is not classed separately under Home Office Counting Rules. Rather, it is grouped within ‘Blackmail’, and highlighted from a manual examination”.
The Police Service has issued online safety advice, which includes:
- · Don’t get lured or pushed into compromising situations. Trust your gut, and end uncomfortable situations immediately.
- Always remember that what goes online may well stay online.
- Be wary about whom you invite or accept invitations from on social networking sites. Do not accept friendship requests from complete strangers.
- Update the privacy settings on your social networking accounts so only people you know can view your account. Do not include any sensitive or private information in profiles.
For further information and details of organisations who can help, visit www.psni.police.uk/sextortion
No-one will forget the tragic death of Ronan Hughes from Coalisland in Co Tyrone who died after falling victim to sextortion.
Ronan Hughes (17), a pupil at St Joseph's Grammar School, Donaghmore, was blackmailed that if he did not did not pay €3,000 ransom – images he shared would be made public.
The tragic teenager died by suicide in June 2016.
Anyone who is feeling suicidal should contact Lifeline for support.