Police warning issued after seven reports of 'sextortion'.
Byline: Dave Robson Senior Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
A WARNING to beware of internet sex blackmailers was issued yesterday after SEVEN reports of "sextortion" crimes on Teesside.
Also known as webcam blackmail, "sextortion" sees criminals deceiving webcam users into undressing and performing sex acts.
The footage is then used to blackmail victims into performing further acts on camera, and/or to pay money to ensure it isn't sent to friends and family via social media. Often victims will have been encouraged to grant access to private settings on social media accounts before the blackmail takes place, allowing unrestricted access to family and friend contact details.
Det Supt Alastair Simpson, of Cleveland Police, said: "Recently we have had seven reports of this type of crime whereby victims engage in webchat sites.
"Once they are snared into believing they are acting in a private environment and gain the trust of the perpetrator to "take things further" they can quickly become entangled in a situation they find difficult to get out of and the threat of the footage being sent to people they know becomes overwhelming."
Det Supt Simpson said it can be diffi-cult to detect the crime and capture the culprits because it often emanates from global organised crime groups.
He added: "The true numbers involved could be far higher than those reported due to the embarrassment that can be caused to the victim.
"These victims should know they are not alone. Many people locally and nationally have fallen victim to this emerging criminal threat. The advice from police is clear - do not pay, do not re-contact the blackmailer, do not attempt to negotiate.
"Payment has not prevented publication in some cases and is likely to lead to further demands.
"Unfortunately, once the footage has been obtained, it is very difficult to prevent publication on the internet if the criminals choose to do this, particularly if overseas criminal gangs are responsible.
"Victims will need to consider preparing their family and friends for publication."
He said a focus on prevention was the best way to combat sextortion.
He added: "Young people in particular should be wary of accepting or making friend requests from anyone they don't know personally in everyday life.
"Whilst this is a new crime, some very old advice remains relevant - if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is."
Websites such as www.revengepornhelpline.org.uk can offer support and advice to victims and help with steps that may limit the publication of such images. An advice leaflet has also been sent to local secondary schools.
To report a sextortion crime, call police on 101.
| Senior investigating Officer Det Supt Alastair Simpson at yesterday's press conference