The National Crime Agency (NCA) has today revealed the number of UK sextortion victims has risen threefold in just two years.
In 2017, 1,304 cases of sextortion were reported to the NCA’s Anti-Kidnap and Extortion Unit (AKEU) by police forces across the UK.
This is almost three times more than the number of cases reported in 2015 in which organised crime groups (OCGs) use fake dating profiles to befriend victims and encourage them to live stream sex acts. Victims are often contacted through dating websites and believe they are in a genuine relationship. They are then persuaded to perform sex acts online which the OCGs record and threaten to share with the victim’s friends and family unless they are paid.
The actual figure of those sextorted is likely to be much higher, with many victims failing to report the crime to the authorities. Sextortion has a devastating impact on victims, with at least five suicides being linked to it.
Evidence suggests that sextortion is predominately committed by overseas criminal gangs, targeting young males aged 17-25 with an increasing number of British Armed Forces personnel being sextorted.
Fred Langford, Internet Watch Foundation Deputy CEO, said: “At the IWF our Indecent Images of Children Campaign, created in partnership with the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF), NSPCC and HM Government, seeks to educate young men aged 18 to 24 on the laws around sexual images of under 18s online.
“Within the campaign, one of the topics we cover is sextortion, as young men are particularly vulnerable to being targeted and falling victim to it online. We want to encourage young men to be aware of the risks online, and to speak up if they find themselves being exploited or vulnerable to blackmail.”
The National Crime Agency says if anyone ever finds themselves being blackmailed in this way the advice is simple.
Don't panic, don't pay and call the police.
To read the NCA's full story, click here, and to watch an NCA video on sextortion click here.