Detective Supt. Rowan Moore.
THE Police Service of Northern Ireland have launched an online campaign aimed at raising awareness around sextortion.
#StopSextortionNI aims to raise awareness of what sextortion is and the dangers associated with interacting with someone you don’t know online.
The campaign features an animation which is showcased on PSNI social media channels and website over the coming months. It depicts two different scenarios - a schoolboy and a married man (unbeknownst to them) talking to the same ‘woman’ online, and how easy it is to be duped by someone you’re ‘talking’ to online.
PSNI Detective Supt. Rowan Moore said, the best way to stop yourself from becoming a victim is to be careful about who you befriend online.
“Sextortion is a form of blackmail where a perpetrator threatens to reveal intimate images of the victim online unless they give in to their demands. These demands are typically for money or further intimate images.
“Criminals might befriend victims online by using a fake identity and then persuade them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam. Criminals who then threaten to share the images with the victims’ friends and family. This can make the victims feel embarrassed and ashamed, and prevent them from coming forward to report the incident.
“While sextortion can be committed by individuals, organised crime is commonly behind it. Perpetrators can be located anywhere, targeting a number of people, targeting victims through dating apps, social media or webcams. Many are based overseas.
“There is global element to this but it is important to point out that committing crime online does not make criminals anonymous to law enforcement. We work closely with our partners, such as NCA and Interpol, to track down and apprehend those involved in this criminal activity.
“For the criminal, this is a low risk way to make money and they can reach many victims easily online. Criminals will always exploit any opportunity to extort money from unsuspecting members of our community but together we can stop it.
“In the past year (Sept. 1st 2018 – Sept. 9th 2019), we have received 167 reports of cyber related blackmails across Northern Ireland. These reports relate to the attempted blackmail of people of a variety of ages, from teenagers to people in their 60s, as a result of footage that they have willingly participated in and which could be embarrassing if released. The culprits can ask for anything from about £200 to thousands of pounds/euros to ensure the footage isn’t released on social media platforms and although we believe most of the victims who report it to us don’t pay any money, there are some that do.
“Police are committed to fully investigating this type of crime when it is reported to us; however, we want to do all we can to raise awareness so this doesn't happen at all. We also need victims of sextortion to report it.
“We believe these types of crimes are generally under reported and that in some cases, people prefer to pay money rather than contact police. We would urge anyone who has been the victim of cyber related blackmail to come forward and report it to police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Even though it may be embarrassing, anybody who is the victim of such a crime should be reassured that we are able to deal with it.”
PSNI advice on online safety:
Do not share intimate videos online.
Do not get lured into compromising situations such as removing clothes or performing intimate acts online.
Always remember that what goes online may well stay online
Be wary about who 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, private or confidential information in profiles
If you use online dating sites, choose those that offer the ability to email prospective dates using a service that conceals both parties' true email addresses
Quickly block nuisance and fraudulent users from further contact with you and also report them for abuse
If you become a victim of this type of scam, do not respond to the blackmailer's demands, but report the issue to the police and the relevant social networking site
If you think that you have been persuaded by anyone to part with payment details, contact your bank or card issuer immediately
Advice can be found on the Get Safe Online website at https://www.getsafeonline.org or https://www.psni.police.uk/advice_information/sextortion/.
If you would like to speak to anyone concerning any issues you may have please call the 101 number.
The animation can be viewed at https://www.psni.police.uk/advice_information/sextortion/.