'Sextortion' and 'revenge porn' are growing crimes where victims are either exploited for money or humiliated out of spite.
In the case of sextortion, victims are persuaded to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam and the recorded material is then used as blackmail.
Criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online, using websites such as Facebook, Skype or LinkedIn, then threaten to share the video with the victim's friends or family.
'Revenge porn' more often involves an ex-partner or person known to you, who seeks to use what you thought were private images to embarrass or humiliate you.
Victim Support, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the National Police Chiefs' Council have advice for those who have been, or are likely to be, targeted.
The NCA has this advice for victims of sextortion, if someone threatens to share explicit images or videos of you unless money is paid.
- Don't panic
Contact your local police and internet service provider immediately. The police will take your case seriously, will deal with it in confidence and will not judge you for being in this situation.
- Don't communicate
Cut all communication with the criminals and 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.
You can also get the video blocked when reporting it and 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.
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 is 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 are not alone and confidential support is available. You can get through this.
- Further help and support
If this has happened to you and you are under 18, talk to an adult that you trust.
It may feel like there is no way out, but there are professionals who can help you. You can also get help from:
PAPYRUS provides confidential advice and support and works to prevent young suicide in the UK.
Samaritans to talk any time you like in your own way and off the record.
Other sites that can offer advice include: Get Safe Online, Revenge Porn Helpline, Skype advice on protecting yourself from blackmail, Thinkuknow
If you are being targeted in so-called revenge porn, Victim Support has this advice:
Even if you are in a relationship, think carefully before you share any sexual images with anyone, regardless of whether this is online, in person or via text message.
- Check your privacy settings on social media regularly to keep them up to date.
- Don’t share personal information or contact details online.
- Turn your webcam off when you are not using it.
- As with sextortion, Victim Support also says that if someone has posted explicit images of you online, you should report the incident to the website where the images were posted and ask for them to be removed.
- You should try to keep evidence of the incident by taking a record and screenshots of any posts or messages.