Woman, 90, left 'terrified' after sextortion scam

Cyber officers issued a warning about sextortion scams after a 90-year-old woman was left 'terrified' by an incident last week. Credit: PA

Specialist cyber officers have issued a warning after a 90-year-old woman was targeted in a "sextortion scam".

The woman was left "terrified" by the incident, which involved her being sent an explicit email demanding money.

The woman was alarmed by the email and immediately closed her laptop without making a payment and reported the incident to Northumbria Police.

Speaking after the police attended her home, she said: “It was so horrible and I was scared to touch my computer. I immediately unplugged it.

“Action Fraud helped me and gave me advice on what to do but Northumbria Police were marvellous, a total godsend.

“I had not been sleeping since all this started and but the support I’ve had has given me a lifeline and I feel so relieved."

What is a sextortion scam?

Cyber criminals send explicit content and falsely claim to have accessed their victims' devices and recorded them in the privacy of their own homes.

Victims are then blackmailed into paying the criminal in order to prevent intimate content of themselves being leaked online.

Cyber Protect and Prepare Officer Maria Bartley, said: “This is a horrendous scam which preys on people’s fears and induces feelings of panic, guilt and shame by making victims believe intimate, private moments have been caught on camera and risk being sent to their contacts list. In reality these empty threats are just a ruse for faceless cyber criminals to make money.

“There are various versions of this scam online – the most recent one we’ve seen is an email which includes explicit webcam screenshots of several men with the text claiming ‘it could be you next’.

“We would encourage anyone who receives emails or texts of this manner to stay calm and report to ActionFraud immediately. Please do not click any links, reply to the email or send any money."

She added: “This incident undoubtedly upset the elderly victim, but she did the right thing in reporting it as we are able to carry out a welfare check and put safeguarding measures in place.

“I was also able to alleviate her concerns and assure her that no one had been recording inside her address or had access to her device remotely which really set her mind at ease.

“Technology is so often a lifeline for the elderly and vulnerable in our communities and we will not stand for scammers targeting them or ruining their confidence. As a force we will do all we can to safeguard victims, offer support and educate people about how to keep themselves safe from cybercrime.

“We know that it’s not just the elderly who can be targeted but they are more disproportionately affected by scams, so we’re calling on families to raise awareness and help us spread the message that no one should ever open attachments or click links from unsolicited emails, and under no circumstances should you send money to anyone who is threatening to ‘leak’ images or videos of you.”

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