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Sextortion incidents rise six-fold in five years across Nottinghamshire

Young people duped by criminals to send over naked pictures or videos of themselves have spoken out in the hope less people will fall victim to this devastating crime.

Sextortion is where criminals pose as women online and then befriend men usually in their teens or early 20s on their social media platforms.

They will encourage them to send naked pictures or videos of themselves and then use that material against them, threatening to send it to family and friends unless they are paid.

Shocking figures reveal the number of Sextortion reports across our city and county have increased 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.

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Due to the nature of the crime, the victims will remain anonymous.

Paul, not his real name, is only 22 years old and studying at Nottingham Trent University. He is in his final year of studying and never thought he would fall for such a scam.

One day, in the early hours of the morning, he received a direct message on Instagram from someone who was following him on his social media channel.

She was around the same age as him, had a legitimate-looking account, and her bio said she was studying at Oxford University.

He said:

“The conversation was just general at first, we were just saying where we are from, where we live and what university we go to.

“We carried on speaking for a few days and everything was still normal. She asked me if I have Snapchat and I gave her my username and we started speaking there.

“She then sent me a picture of her face as a ‘red snap’ which means it was taken live, and the picture she sent me looked like the same person that was on her Instagram profile picture.

“She then started saying ‘if I want to play’ and the conversation became sexual.

“I sent her a picture of me without a top on. She then started sending me more ‘red snaps’ and she was fully naked. We carried on exchanging pictures.

“She then asked for a picture of me, and I sent her a picture of my private area but this didn’t have my face in although I had sent pictures of my face before.

“She then said: ‘I have your nudes now and I am going to send it to your friends and family.’ She said: ‘I am going to send it to your university and ruin your life.’

“She sent me all the pictures back that I had sent. I don’t know how she had manged to screen shot them without my knowledge because Snapchat tells you if someone has taken a screenshot.

“She said ‘if you don’t comply with us and take the call we will send the pictures.’

“I received a Snapchat call and it was a male voice and he talked me through the next few steps.

“He asked for £500 and asked me to send the money to an account.

“I said ‘I will comply, but I don’t have £500’ so we agreed on £300.”

However, once paid, the threats continued.

“After I paid, they sent the pictures to four of my friends on Instagram.

“The man then said: ‘If I send £200, he will delete them, but if I don’t, he won’t delete them.’

“I said ‘that’s all I had, and I have nothing else.’ He kept threatening me and then they hung up and blocked me on Instagram and Snapchat.

“I checked with my friends later, they had not received anything so they must have deleted them immediately.”

Speaking about how the incident made him feel, he said:

“This incident has made me feel terrible, I couldn’t sleep. I have been stressed out from the threats and I have not been able to eat.

“I have also been struggling with university and I am unable to study for my assignments due to the stress.”

Jack, not his real name, is 29 years old. He was sat at home when his evening took an extremely dark turn.

He said:

“I was at my house chilling. I had had a few drinks. I was not drunk but would say I was merry. I went on Instagram and saw that I had a friend request.

“I don’t normally add strangers on social media but decided to accept it on this occasion. The account messaged me first. We talked for a while and got on well.

“I felt like something wasn’t right but carried on. We got more intimate and she was sending videos that could only be viewed once on Instagram direct message so I believed the videos had to be real.

“We exchanged photos and videos and then I received a message saying: ‘They have all my details and if I didn’t pay them they would send the photos of me to everyone on my Instagram’.

“They then called me. During this phone call, there were two males talking to me.

“They sent a photo to me of one of them holding a phone with the photos I sent on it.

“They were asking for Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency, Paypal, and they sent over bank details. The males were hovering over the send button of my photos if I didn’t send money.

“I sent £1,600 and then the males asked for more money. They wanted thousands of pounds. They asked me to ask people I knew to send me money.

“After around two hours, I hung up the phone call and blocked them straightaway. I called my bank straight after this and they said to go to the police.”

And it is not just young men that have fallen victim to the scam.

Katie, not her real name, aged 18, went through an eight-month ordeal at the hands of these criminals before she finally contacted the police.

She said:

“Around July last year, I came into contact with a guy via Instagram. Initially after speaking for a little while he has convinced me to send him some intimate images and videos.

“I have then sent them and he has then created a collage of them and started asking me for money, initially in the form of gift cards and then also via Paypal.

“They have told me that ‘if I didn’t reply to them, they would expose me and ruin my life’.

“Since this time, they have asked for various amounts of money from me and have been saying each time that they will then delete the video and I will be free, but this has not happened, and they have continued to keep asking for more and more money.

“In total I believe I have sent them around £1,000. The last message I received was in March this year but I have not been responding since I reported this to the police.

“The whole incident has affected me quite a lot mentally. It has given me sleepless nights where I cried myself to sleep. I have been okay in my day-to-day life but whenever I received a message from them it worried me for the rest of the day.

“The thought of the content being released worries me, as I would worry how friends and family would react to it if they found out. I would almost feel like a disappointment. I feel like I would have to lock myself away.”

Detectives from Nottinghamshire Police are currently investigating all three incidents.

•  Sextortion: How criminals posing as women online targeted over 500 young men across Nottinghamshire

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