Wednesday 7 December 2016

UK suicides blamed on new cyber 'sextortion' blackmail

Tina Massey in London

Published 30/11/2016 | 02:30

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Four men killed themselves in the last year after being blackmailed as part of an increasing cyber "sextortion" racket.

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International gangs of organised criminals are targeting more and more young men by luring them into potentially compromising positions, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said in Britain.

The number of people reporting financially motivated cyber enabled blackmails more than doubled from 385 in 2015 to 864 up to November 2016.

This number has risen from nine in 2011.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online - using websites such as Facebook, Skype or Linkedin - before persuading them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam.

The images are recorded by the criminals who then threaten to share them with the victims' friends and family unless they accede to their demands for payment.

Assistant commissioner Martin Hewitt, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for kidnap and extortion and adult sexual offences, said: "The really key point is that as a result of this criminality, we have had four young men in the United Kingdom who have killed themselves because they saw no way out of a situation that they had gotten into.

"Firstly, we are providing information to police forces to better equip them to deal with these crimes when they are reported.

"Perhaps more important is a public awareness campaign to make not only potential victims, but all those around them - friends of potential victims, family members of potential victims - really raise awareness to what is a very damaging and invidious crime."

The National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs' Council started a new campaign to advise those who have been, or are likely to be, targeted. It includes a film aimed at the most vulnerable victims, helping them to recognise a potential criminal approach and providing online advice.

"This is organised crime. While the individual cases themselves may involve relatively limited amounts of money, this is being organised by well-equipped, often off-shore organised crime groups that are facilitating this activity," said Mr Hewitt.

The NCA said the victims are aged between 14 and 82, with the highest proportion being men aged between 21 and 30.

It also added that the groups identified were working out of Morocco, the Philippines and the Ivory Coast.

The NCA's advice to any potential targets is: "Do not panic, do not pay, do not communicate and preserve evidence."

Irish Independent

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