Four men killed themselves in the last year after being blackmailed as part of an increasing cyber sex scam.
Groups of organised criminals are targeting more and more young men by luring them into potentially compromising positions.
It’s called sextortion, and it’s a form of blackmail where criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online.
Using websites like Facebook and Skype, they persuade them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam. The footage is recorded by the criminals, most often posing as women, who then threaten to share them with the victims’ family and friends unless they send payment, the Huffington Post reports.
The elaborate rouse, which first saw a spike in men across the Middle East, has now moved to other countries like the UK. According to the Press Association, the number of people reporting financially-motivated cyber enabled blackmails more than doubled from 385 in 2015 to 864 up to November 2016.
This number has risen from nine in 2011.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for kidnap and extortion and adult sexual offences, Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, said:
It is in response to a really worrying emerging threat in terms of what we call sextortion.
The really key point is that as a result of this criminality, we have had four young men in the United Kingdom who have killed themselves – taken their own lives – because they saw no way out of a situation that they had gotten into.
This is organised crime. Whilst the individual cases themselves may involve relatively limited amounts of money, this is being organised by well-equipped, often off-shore organised crime groups that are facilitating this activity.
And it targets people that are in social chat applications of one description or another, predominantly men, although we have seen some cases with women as the victim.
The NCA said the victims are aged between 14 and 82, with the highest proportion being men aged between 21 and 30.
The groups identified are apparently working out of Morocco, the Philippines and the Ivory Coast. There is currently one ongoing international prosecution connected to one of the suicides reported this year.
In one case the victim had been told ‘your life is over, you may as well go and kill yourself’.
The NCA’s advice to any potential targets is: “Do not panic, do not pay, do not communicate and preserve evidence.”