Social media users are being warned to remain vigilant to potential ‘sextortion’ blackmail attempts.

Detectives in east Kent have received a number of reports in recent weeks following threats to post intimate videos or faked photographs of victims online.

The victims of recent offences have been teenagers or those in their early 20s, but people of all ages may be targeted by the blackmailers.

‘Sextortion’ refers to cyber-enabled crime where victims are lured into performing sexual or intimate acts which are then recorded by the offenders. Those targeting them then threaten to make the footage public or share it with the victims’ families unless they pay them. In other instances, offenders threaten to mock-up intimate pictures of victims using photos taken from online.

Sex act

Earlier this month, a teenager in the Canterbury area was pressured into performing a sex act before the offender threatened to send it to family and friends.

Also this month, another teenager from the Thanet area was talked into providing a photo of themselves, which they were told would be superimposed onto a picture of a naked body and shared unless they transferred money.

Kent Police’s Detective Sergeant Vanessa Law said: ‘These incidents are being investigated with a view to bringing offenders to justice.

‘Incidents of this kind are sadly taking place around the country, but, following a series of reports in east Kent, we are taking this opportunity to remind people of ways they can prevent themselves falling victim.

‘I would also encourage parents to speak to their teenage children to ensure they are aware of the risks and take steps to protect themselves.

‘Any victims of unreported offences should contact police. Officers take reports of this kind seriously and each case will be dealt with in confidence with no judgement made.’

How to avoid becoming a victim:

• Be very careful about who you befriend online, especially if you’re considering sharing anything intimate with them.

• The attractive person in the video chat may have been coerced themselves. A profile photo may be of someone completely different, or not represent a true location for the person. You could perform a reverse image search for the profile image and see if it appears elsewhere on the web but in a different context, for instance it might be a stock photo of a model or of a background.

• It is still best not to share intimate images or sexual acts online even with people you know. Videos can be recorded, images can be saved or have screenshots made from them, and easily published online where they can be shared and copied further. Once images are out there, they are very difficult to get rid of. If it’s happened to you, don’t panic. You may naturally feel ashamed or embarrassed, but remember, you are the victim of organised criminals, you are not alone, and confidential support is available.

• Don’t pay up. The criminal may publish the compromising images anyway, or they may come back to you for more money.

• Screenshot any usernames, email, contact details or other information that relate to the suspect.

• End all communication with the blackmailers.

• Contact us. You can do that using any of the non-emergency methods here: https://www.kent.police.uk/contact/af/contact-us/

• If you’re under 18 years old, speak to an adult you trust immediately. They will support you. You can also get in touch with CEOP (the police Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command) https://www.ceop.police.uk/ceop-reporting

By Ed

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