Sextortion (webcam blackmail)
Many people use webcams for flirting and cybersex - but sometimes people you meet online aren't who they say they are.
Criminals might befriend victims online by using a fake identity and then persuade them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam, often by using an attractive woman or men to entice the victim to participate. These individuals may have been coerced into these actions using financial incentives or threats.
These webcam videos are recorded by the criminals who then threaten to share the images with the victims’ friends and family. This can make the victims feel extremely ashamed and embarrassed and, tragically, here in the UK at least four young men have taken their own lives after being targeted in this way.
Both men and women can be victims of this crime, either by being blackmailed or by being coerced into carrying out sexual acts.
The best way to stop yourself from becoming a victim is to be very careful about who you befriend with online, especially if you’re considering sharing anything intimate with them.
Watch and learn…Europol’s “Say No!” campaign video
What to do if you’re a victim of sextortion
If someone threatens to share explicit images of you unless you pay them money:
- Don’t panic. Contact your local police and internet service provider immediately. The police will take your case seriously, will deal with it in confidence and will not judge you for being in this situation.
- Don’t communicate further with the criminals. Take screen shots of all your communication. Suspend your Facebook account (but don’t delete it) and use the online reporting process to report the matter to Skype, YouTube etc. to have any video blocked and to set up an alert in case the video resurfaces. Deactivating the Facebook account temporarily rather than shutting it down will mean the data is preserved and will help police to collect evidence. The account can also be reactivated at any time so your online memories are not lost forever. Also, keep an eye on all the accounts which you might have linked in case the criminals try to contact you via one of those.
- Don’t pay. Many victims who have paid have continued to get more demands for higher amounts of money. In some cases, even when the demands have been met, the offenders will still go on to post the explicit videos. If you have already paid, check to see if the money has been collected. If it has, and if you are able, then make a note of where it was collected from. If it hasn’t, then you can cancel the payment – and the sooner you do that the better.
- Preserve evidence. Make a note of all details provided by the offenders, for example; the Skype name (particularly the Skype ID), the Facebook URL; the Western Union or MoneyGram Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN); any photos/videos that were sent, etc. Be aware that the scammer’s Skype name is different to their Skype ID, and it’s the ID details that police will need. To get that, right click on their profile, select ‘View Profile’ and then look for the name shown in blue rather than the one above it in black. It’ll be next to the word ’Skype’ and will have no spaces in it. DO NOT DELETE ANY CORRESPONDENCE.
Remember that you’re the victim of organised criminals – you’re not alone and confidential support is available. You can get through this.
- Happening now? Call the police on 999
- If this has happened recently, call the police on 101
- Do not pay any money
- Stop communicating with the person immediately
- Report to your internet service provider
- Screengrab and write down as much information as possible
- If you’re under 18, report to CEOP – https://www.ceop.police.uk/ceop-reporting
Further help and support
If this has happened to you and you’re under 18 please talk to an adult that you trust.
It may feel like there is no way out, but there are Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) professionals who are on hand to help you.
You can also get expert help from the following organisations:
- Get Safe Online
- Samaritans – call 116 123
- PAPYRUS provides confidential advice and support and works to prevent young suicide in the UK
- Skype advice on protecting yourself from blackmail
- Revenge Porn Helpline – call 0345 6000 459
Whatever you do, please don’t suffer in silence – we can help you!