Police issue advice on Safer Internet Day as ‘sextortion’ crime rises
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Detectives have issued advice on ‘sextortion’ for Safer Internet Day after Bedfordshire Police received more than 100 reports of this form of online exploitation over recent months.
New figures released by the force show that between September 2022 to January 2023, officers recorded 112 reports of this type of crime.
‘Sextortion’ involves victims being lured into performing sexual acts or taking intimate images.
Unbeknown to the victims, their acts are often recorded by criminals who then use the images to blackmail them.
The fraudsters may threaten to upload the content to the internet and send it to the victim’s friends or family if they do not comply with their demands.
In the majority of cases, the motive is financially driven and victims may end up paying large sums of money to the offender, who may even be based in an entirely different country.
A change in legislation in June 2021 made the threats of disclosure of private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress, commonly referred to as the sharing or posting of ‘revenge porn’ online, illegal.
The figures have also been released to coincide with It’s Not OK week, a national week raising awareness of sexual violence and abuse.
A/Detective Sergeant Ann Ward from Bedfordshire Police’s Serious Fraud Investigation Unit said: “We have found that ‘sextortion’ crimes have been rising steadily year on year, with more than 100 reports made to us over the last four months.
“We would advise anyone against sending intimate pictures or performing sexual acts online, as once they are in the cyber arena they can never be completely deleted.
“Only accept friend requests on social media from people you know in real life and if you do find yourself a victim of this cruel offence, please report it to us so we can investigate it and hopefully put a stop to it.”
There are a number of key tips to remember to protect yourself from fraud online:
Not everyone online is who they say they are and it’s easy for people to hide their real intentions, so only speak to people you know in real life.
Never transfer money or share bank details, PINs and passwords with people you don’t know and trust.
If someone you are speaking to online makes you feel uncomfortable, or you witness any suspicious behaviour, contact police.
Think twice before you post online – once something has been shared in the digital world it is almost impossible to completely remove it. Often intimate images can be used as blackmail so never send anything you would not be comfortable sharing with a wider audience.
If you feel you have been a victim of fraud online, break off all contact, do not send any more money, report the fraudster to the website or chat room operator and call police on 101.
If you have been affected by this type of crime, the Bedfordshire Victim Care Services offers free and confidential support to victims in Bedfordshire, whether it has been reported to police or not, and irrespective of where and when the crime occurred.