Thousands of UK men are victims to sextortion gangs according to figures released by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
In 2017 1,304 cases of sextortion were reported to the NCA’s Anti-Kidnap and Extortion Unit (AKEU) by police forces across the UK.
This is nearly three times more than the number of cases reported in 2015.
- What is sextortion?
Organised criminal gangs, often overseas, use fake online identities to befriend victims looking for genuine friendships online and persuade them to do sexual acts in front of a webcam.
Gangs then use this footage to blackmail victims, threatening to share the video online.
Roy Sinclair, operations manager from the National Crime Agency told ITV News some victims had been "in crisis" over being blackmail, and five people had taken their own lives.
- Who usually get targeted?
Both men and women can become targets.
However according to the NCA young males aged 17 TO 25 and with an increasing number of British Armed Forces personnel being sextorted.
Men over 60 are also vulnerable the blackmail.
- How are the victims tricked?
Gangs often use an attractive person, who themselves have been blackmailed, to befriend victims.
In the UK four people have already taken their lives after being sextorted.
- What should you do if you're a victim?
Roy Sinclair's advice is don't panic, don't pay, suspend the account but don't delete it, and call the police.
"The police are going to be sympathetic, compassionate about what they do. But ultimately it will be treated with the utmost confidentiality," he said.
The NCA advises
Take screen shots of all your communication. Suspend your Facebook account (but don’t delete it) and use the online reporting process to report the matter to Skype, YouTube etc. to have any video blocked and to set up an alert in case the video resurfaces. Deactivating the Facebook account temporarily rather than shutting it down will mean the data are preserved and will help police to collect evidence. The account can also be reactivated at any time so your online memories are not lost forever. Also, keep an eye on all the accounts which you might have linked in case the criminals try to contact you via one of those.
Don't pay. Many victims who have paid have continued to get more demands for higher amounts of money. In some cases, even when the demands have been met the offenders will still go on to post the explicit videos. If you have already paid, check to see if the money has been collected. If it has, and if you are able, then make a note of where it was collected from. If it hasn't, then you can cancel the payment - and the sooner you do that the better.
Preserve evidence. Make a note of all details provided by the offenders, for example; the Skype name (particularly the Skype ID), the Facebook URL; the Western Union or MoneyGram Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN); any photos/videos that were sent, etc.
Be aware that the scammer's Skype name is different to their Skype ID, and it's the ID details that police will need. To get that, right click on their profile, select ‘View Profile’ and then look for the name shown in blue rather than the one above it in black. It'll be next to the word ’Skype’ and will have no spaces in it.
Do not delete any correspondence. Remember that you're the victim of organised criminals - you're not alone and confidential support is available.