Police are warning of sextortion and the dangers associated with interacting with someone you don’t know online after receiving reports of three similar cases in Sussex.

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 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 will then threaten to share the images with the victims’ friends and family which can make the victims feel embarrassed and ashamed, and prevent them from coming forward to report the incident.

In February, police received reports of several different teenagers in West Sussex, who were being blackmailed after sharing intimate videos with someone they started speaking to on Instagram.

The suspect demanded thousands of pounds and threatened to share the videos with their contacts.

Thankfully the victims did not pay money and contacted the police.

The victims in these cases were young men aged 15-20 years.

DC Matt Watson said: “Sextortion is an awful and exploitative crime, commonly carried out through social media sites.  It causes extreme distress to victims who may feel too embarrassed to come forward and report the incidents.

“Although it can be committed by individuals, organised crime is commonly behind it.  Perpetrators can be located anywhere, with many based overseas.

“Most worryingly, we have seen cases involving victims who are under 18.  Perpetrators viewing, downloading or forwarding any such video are carrying out further serious criminal offences.

“Please be wary of requests from strangers online.  We urge people not to share intimate videos or engage in sexual activity with people they don’t know.

“Anyone who has been the victim of cyber related blackmail is asked to come forward and report it to police online, or by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency.  They can also report directly to Action Fraud.

Advice tips to stay safe from sextortion and webcam blackmail:

  • 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, not accepting friendship requests from strangers;
  • Update the privacy settings on your social networking accounts so only people you know can view your account and your friends;
  • Do not include any sensitive, private or confidential information in profiles;
  • 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 site being used;
  • If you think that you have already been persuaded by anyone to part with payment details, contact your bank or card issuer immediately;

Report crime online or by calling 101. 

For more information about Operation Signature, Sussex Police’s campaign to identify and protect vulnerable victims of fraud see the Force website here