Police in Highlands urge people to think twice about sharing intimate footage as sextortion scam grows
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Police are urging people to think twice about sharing intimate footage of themselves online as figures show a growing problem of blackmail.
Known as "sextortion" the scam sees people getting involved in conversations online that quickly turn sexual and involve an invitation to send intimate images or video.
In the event that these are indeed sent, the innocent party then finds themselves facing demands for money – with the threat that if they don't pay, the images or video will be posted publicly or shared with their contacts.
Inverness area commander for Police Scotland, Chief Inspector Judy Hill, says it is a growing problem.
"We are seeing a significant increase in fraudulent activity online of which sextortion is one aspect," she said.
"One of the main ways criminals get away with it is the fact that being caught up in it is embarrassing for many people. But we want to encourage people to report incidents – there is no need to be embarrassed, they are the victim in this and will be treated as such."
Most of those perpetrating the fraud are based abroad and can be difficult to track down, but Ch Insp Hill said the more information police have about incidents, the more likely they are to be able to build a picture that may eventually lead to arrest.
"The main point to make is that, as well as reporting incidents to the police, people should never make payments in response to threats," she said.
"There is no guarantee that the images won't just be posted anyway and they could even just come back asking for more money."
Support Inspector Stuart Fitzpatrick said: "The other thing to bear in mind is that the perpetrator in the case is probably carrying out hundreds of different conversations with other people at the same time they are talking to you.
"They are just looking for someone to take the bait effectively and if they catch two or three that's enough for them.
"If you don't bite, the chances are they won't pursue it, as the last thing they want to do is draw attention to themselves."
On reporting matters, he said: "People coming forward means we can work with them in terms of finding potential support for them because there can be a major mental health impact of falling victim to a scam like this.
"Don't feel you have to cope alone – you are not the only victim and there are networks of support out there."
There are various routes to support if you have fallen victim to a sextortion scam:
- Report it to social media companies if communication happened on their channels, for example Facebook or Instagram.
- Report it to your internet service provider.
- Block all communication with the person targeting you.
- Police can be contacted on 101.
- Child Exploitation and Online: www.ceop.police.uk
- National Crime Agency: www.nca.gov.uk
- Revenge Porn Helpline: email@example.com