More than 40 cases of cyber-crime have been reported to police across Northern Ireland in just three days – the majority to do with so-called ‘sextortion’ scams.
The reports were all made between Thursday and Saturday morning, in Counties Antrim, Down, Tyrone and Londonderry.
According to the PSNI, most of the cases involve emails being sent to people demanding £2,000 to stop X-rated or compromising images or footage being sent to their families or released online.
Some are phishing emails where scammers, who claim to have access to indecent images of the recipient, also claim to have their password in an attempt to convince them they're a genuine threat.
PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls says cyber criminals will stop at nothing to dupe people, even during the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Scammers are ruthless, unscrupulous individuals who don't care about the impact of their actions on victims, which can sometimes can be life changing and which often has a significant impact.
“Thankfully, in relation to the reports we have received in the last few days, people appear to be aware of the fraudsters and it appears they haven't fallen for their scams,” Chief Superintendent Walls said.
Police are particularly urging parents and guardians to keep an eye on their children’s online activity, especially now they are spending more time at home.
Chief Superintendent Wells noted that it is really important they know who their children are engaging with online and what sites they are visiting.
“And, to any young person who may receive or has received one of these emails, please don’t worry,” he added.
“Speak to your parent/guardian or someone you trust and do not reply to the email.”
People are also being reminded never to give out personal or financial information to an unverified source via email or over the phone.
A small number of the recent scams have been of the more traditional type, claiming to be from a bank or claiming the person is due a refund for a cancelled MOT.
One report was about workers taking money from a householder for work yet to be completed.
Chief Superintendent Walls said: “I would urge people who receive any of these types of email not to interact or reply to the scammers, but to forward details on to Action Fraud and contact us.”
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