Don’t Panic and Don’t Pay – Cleveland Police Backs National Campaign to Advise and Support “Sextortion” Victims

Thousands of people in the UK are likely to be falling victim to sextortion every year, according to the National Crime Agency and National Police Chiefs Council.

In response to a large increase in reports this year (864 cases of financially motivated webcam blackmail so far in 2016, compared with 385 in 2015), the NCA and NPCC have launched a new campaign to give advice to those who have been, or are likely to be, targeted, and Cleveland Police is supporting the initiative.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online and then persuade them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam. These webcam images are recorded by the criminals who then threaten to share them with the victims’ friends and family unless they are paid.

The campaign includes a film aimed at the most vulnerable victims, helping them to recognise a potential criminal approach and providing online advice, including the importance of reporting the crime to police.

Police and the NCA have uncovered evidence that organised crime groups, largely based overseas in countries including the Philippines, Ivory Coast and Morocco, are behind a large proportion of sextortion attempts.

Cleveland Police’s Specialist Crime Detective Superintendent Alastair Simpson said: “This type of crime is difficult to detect as very often it emanates from international, organised crime groups making it difficult to capture those responsible and the true numbers involved could be far higher than those reported due to the embarrassment that can be caused to the victim.

“Our best chance to combat this type of crime is to focus on prevention.
Young people in particular should be wary of accepting or making friend requests from anyone they don’t know personally in everyday life.

“Victims should know they are not alone; many people locally and nationally have fallen victim to this emerging criminal threat and I would repeat national advice that you must report it to us.  We will take all reports seriously and deal with them in complete confidence and without judgement.

Advice on what to do if you think you have become victim to sextortion is available on the NCA website at www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/sextortion but in a nutshell, my advice echoes theirs – don’t panic, don’t pay, don’t re-contact the blackmailer and don’t attempt to negotiate.  Contact Police and we will help and support you.”