ITV Wales journalist Jess Clayton reports on the issue of 'sextortion'
A 24-year-old man from Cardiff thought his "life was over" after a scammer sent sexual images of him to his workplace and friend in a bid to extort money.
The man, who does not want to be named, explained to ITV Wales how he had been the victim of a "sextortion" scam - a form of blackmail in which a person threatens to publish sexual information, photos or videos of a person, usually for money.
He said: “I matched with someone on a dating app.
"We were talking for a day or two and it was pretty normal, quite flirty.
"She asked for my social media and my number. Her photos and her name all matched with her dating app profile.
“Then one morning it became more overtly sexual. She started asking for nudes and sent me some videos of herself that were sexual in nature. She then asked me to send some back and I did.
“She asked to have my face in one and that should've been an alarm bell moment but for whatever reason I complied with it.
“She wanted to make sure her pictures weren’t going to be shared, so after all the stress she put on keeping these videos private it lured me into a false sense of security I suppose.”
"That’s when the whole thing turned on its head"
Following this the man described how he began to feel pressured to continue "sexting" or to have a phone call with the woman.
He said: “I got an off feeling, I didn't think it was a good idea to talk anymore. That’s when the whole thing turned on its head.
"I got a message saying 'I'm going to ruin your life if you don't pay us' and then a screen recording of the nudes I had sent, with a list of my contacts from social media they said they wanted to send the pictures to."
The man then received a phone call from the scammer.
The scammer, who he described as a middle-aged man, explained that if he didn't pay him £800 he would "ruin his life.”
He said: "They sent the video to my work account and to a friend.
"That's when I thought my life was over.
"Luckily enough, I knew the man running the work account and I explained to him so he deleted the videos.
"I just spent the rest of the day with friends in the house, shaking on the floor just waiting for someone to call to say they’d received the video too."
The man reported what happened to the police.
He added: "I haven't used dating apps since. I don't meet new people in a romantic way. The next day I was walking down the street and I couldn't look anyone in the eye.
"I thought any one of them could've been this person trying to get money out of me. I know logically it wasn't my fault but I can’t shake the actual shame of it that I feel towards myself.”
Almost 8,000 cases of romance scams were reported to Action Fraud UK last year, with men in their 20s most likely to fall victim to these scams.
A 23-year-old woman from South Wales also shared her experience of 'sextortion'.
She explained how falling victim to a romance scam left her feeling "stripped of her dignity".
She said: "I downloaded a lesbian dating app as I wanted to explore my sexuality because I haven't been comfortable enough to do it in real life.
"I hadn't come out to friends or family and I was really scared to, and I still am, to be honest.
“I matched with a girl. I opened up to her about my sexuality and the fact I was scared to come out, she gave me advice and seemed to really understand what I was going through.
"She explained that she’d been through the same.
“After maybe three days she started getting sexual, and this was new for me. She sent half-nude pictures of herself and then asked for some back.
"I knew as I was taking them I shouldn't send anything to someone I haven't met, but this felt like the only opportunity I might have to connect with a woman, I sent them, which I still feel ashamed about."
She continued: “Then I had a phone call and it was a man who sounded a lot older than me saying if I didn't send him £1,000 he would send the pictures and conversation to my work and family.
"He said he’d make sure that they knew that the conversation was with a girl so he said he’d out my sexuality and expose my nude pictures if I didn't send the money.
“I was going to send the money but I knew that this kind of person probably wouldn't stop there. I didn't have anyone to talk to because I wasn't out about my sexuality so I had to ring the Samaritans, they told me to just block the number and contact the police.
"I was too embarrassed to call the police so I left it.”
Online Abuse Support
Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. They have been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic violence and abuse through practice for over 45 years.
Mind is a mental health charity which promotes the views and needs of people with mental health issues.
Phone Infoline on 0300 123 3393
The latest data from Victim Support showed a 38 % rise in the number of romance fraud victims being supported by the charity – going from 233 people in 2021 to 322 in 2022.
Furthermore, 17% of romance scam victims felt too ashamed to report their experiences.
She added: “The only time I've been vulnerable and open with my sexuality and I was exploited.
"Now I don't know how I could speak to someone again. I really think it will affect me for the rest of my life.
“I felt stripped of my dignity.”
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