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Young people urged to be vigilant of sextortion and online blackmail

14th May 2024
Sextortion incidents are on the rise. Police Scotland have given advice to young people, their parents and carers on how to keep themselves safe online.
The UK National Crime Agency recently issued a warning that there is an increased risk of online sextortion.

Sextortion is when someone is blackmailed that intimate and indecent photos of them will be shared publicly unless they pay money.

Criminals use friendship apps, dating apps and more to talk to people, get intimate photos and then switch from being nice to nasty and demand they pay money.

Young people are being urged to not share intimate photos online to protect themselves from becoming a target for criminals.

Anyone who is being blackmailed or ‘sextorted’ is urged to report it.

A Renfrewshire mum said her teenage son had become victim to sextortion. He called the police after receiving threats to pay up or have indecent photos of him shared publicly.

She said: “My son was scared that he’d put our family in danger and ruined his own life. He thought he would be in trouble for going online at night and for pretending to be older. He knew these were things he shouldn’t do because I had spoken to him many times about the dangers of talking to strangers online.

“Both of us were in shock and we felt fear, shame, and guilt. He felt he’d done something very bad, and I felt I’d failed to protect him. But we are not to blame.

“The police were very helpful and they explained that online grooming of children and ‘sextortion’ is becoming increasingly common as organised crime groups use social media apps and websites to target kids and frighten them into sending money.”

Detective Superintendent Alan Paterson said: “Sextortion is blackmail and those targeted should not pay, nor should they be embarrassed or scared to report it to police.

“We are experiencing an increase in the number of sextortion incidents being reported and although we are encouraged that victims appear more confident in coming forward, we know from our partners that it is still likely to be an under-reported offence.

“Criminals use the internet, social media, dating apps, web cams or pornography sites and fake identities to befriend people online and then threaten to send images to their family and friends.

“People shouldn’t panic. There is support available from policing and from third party organisations. We want people to know they will be treated with respect and dignity and the circumstances investigated professionally.

“There is information available on the Police Scotland website on ways you can stay safe online—such as not sharing intimate images.”

See advice and information on sextortion (Police Scotland).

To report a crime, call 101.  In an emergency, call 999.

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