Thursday 13 June 2024
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Sextortion: How criminals posing as women online targeted over 500 young men across Nottinghamshire

Callous criminals usually disguising themselves as women online have exploited more than 1,000 young people across Nottinghamshire.

Nottinghamshire Police have launched a hard-hitting campaign to educate and prevent children and young people from falling victim to this ‘nasty and manipulative’ crime.

Shocking figures reveal the number of ‘Sextortion’ reports across the city and county have increased more than six-fold over the last few years – from 80 reports in 2019 to a staggering 547 in 2023.

More than 100 reports have already been made this year.

Criminals will often follow a young person’s social media accounts or send them friend requests’ pretending to be a young woman.

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They will usually try and identify with the victim through private messages, such as mentioning they are studying at a particular university and school.

The conversation can last for days before it takes a dark turn.

Criminals will gain their trust and attempt to progress things to the next level, often sending intimate pictures of the person they think they are talking to, encouraging them to do the same.

However, once they have an intimate picture or video of the victim, they will immediately use this material against them.

A typical message will say: ‘Stay calm, don’t panic, I have recorded that video / saved that picture of you and I will ruin your life if you don’t follow my instructions.’

They will then send a screen grab of all the victim’s social media contacts such as friends, family and colleagues and threaten to send it to all of them unless they are paid.

They will even attempt to call the victim to heighten the threat. On most occasions, the voice is that of a male and not a female.

Some of the criminals have even sent the victim details of their schools and universities social media accounts and threatened to post it on these channels as well.

Sums of up to £5,000 have been demanded. Some victims have paid up to £1,000 with one university student left without any money to pay his rent.

In some cases, the criminal has followed up with the threat and sent the naked pictures and videos out. In one case, an image was sent to the teenage victim’s mum who called the police. Other victims have found out after friends have contacted them.

Most victims are male, predominately between the ages of 14 to early 20s, who have been left feeling ‘mortified’ ‘anxious’ ‘socially withdrawn’ and even ‘suicidal’ as a result.

Nottinghamshire Police have a team of detectives who investigate every report of Sextortion and offer support to each victim.

Most of the time, the IP address will be based overseas, which makes it incredibly difficult to prosecute the criminals behind these blackmail cases.

Prevention is therefore key to ensuring that more young people do not fall victim to this scam.

Schools’ officers will be delivering Sextortion presentations to children across the city and county, warning them of the dangers and on how to stay safe online.

Posters with the QR code to our video will be distributed across bars, pubs, nightclubs and other licensed venues across the city centre.

Tips and advice to keep you safe from Sextortion:

If you are chatting to new people online:

  • Review your privacy settings. Criminals are less likely to target you if they can’t see who your friends and family are.
  • If you’re not comfortable speaking to the person or being contacted by someone you don’t know, end the chat quickly and remove them from your channels.
  • Be careful of those trying to start a conversation / relationship with you very quickly online – they may even send you a sexual image first.
  • Be cautious about new people you are speaking to online – can you validate they are who they say they are. If you can’t, remove them from your channels.
  • Never share sexual images or information about yourself if you are not comfortable or feel under pressure to do. Criminals involved in Sextortion will consistently ask for that naked picture or video of you and are less interested in other conversation.

If you are a victim of sextortion, it’s not your fault.

  • Don’t panic, help and support is available.
  • Stop all communication with the offender immediately.
  • Don’t pay, even if you are tempted, as there is no guarantee that this will stop the threats.
  • Save the evidence: take screenshots, save messages and images, make a note of usernames, email addresses, phone numbers and bank account numbers.
  • Collect URL links to where your images or information is being shared online.

Most social media sites have rules against sharing intimate content without consent. You should be able to get the material removed. If you’ve paid the person, consider telling your bank. They may not be able to get any money back but it helps us and the banks to know it’s happened.

Please report it. We are here to help.

We understand that it might be difficult to report this type of crime to us. We’re here to listen and support you in any way we can. Call 101 or contact us through our online portal.

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