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  1. ITV Report

Boys as young as 11 falling victim to 'sextortion'

More men and boys - some as young as 11 - are falling victim to "sextortion" - or webcam blackmail - with sometimes devastating effects.

Four men have killed themselves in the last year after being lured by online gangs, the National Crime Agency said.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online - using websites such as Facebook, Skype or Linkedin - before persuading them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam.

The number of reported webcam blackmail cases more than doubled in the past year, rising from 385 in 2015 to 864 - compared to just nine in 2011.

But the actual number of online sexual exploitation offences could be much higher because many victims are too embarrassed to report it.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) and the National Police Chiefs' Council have launched a new campaign to advise those who have been, or are likely to be, targeted.

An example of a fake Facebook account set up for sextortion. Credit: National Crime Agency

One man in his teens said he thought about suicide after falling victim to the crime.

He was blackmailed for £500 by a woman he had been talking to online for some time who then threatened to expose him on Facebook.

He said: "I offered to go to the bank but went to the police station instead. I was trembling throughout the whole thing, shaking and thinking 'what's going to happen?'.

"This will ruin my life and did not know what to do. If this video is released onto Facebook, what would I do?

"What's going to happen with my job? What will my friends think? I thought about suicide, it would have been too embarrassing."

A woman in a video released by the National Crime Agency. Credit: National Crime Agency

Another man, in his 60s, who started online dating when he split with his wife, said didn't go to the police straight away after he was blackmailed by a woman. He said the incident had destroyed him.

"Even now, I have trouble going on to the internet and I can't use Facebook any more. I wake up every morning and what is always in my head is that I don't know if that video still exists or not, he said.

"The police told me that people have committed suicide because of this, I can understand why. You feel destroyed."

A website has been set up by the NCA to help people who may have been victims.