DON’T panic. Don’t communicate. Don’t pay.
That’s the advice given to victims of online blackmail who are faced with demands to transfer cash with the threat that intimate photos and videos will be shared.
Dyfed-Powys Police has offered the guidance after receiving reports of online blackmail over the past month. Officers are concerned that with people being advised to stay at home, blackmailers might have more opportunity to target victims.
People are being contacted through email or social media, with demands to make payments to people in places including the Ivory Coast, the Philippines, or Ukraine.
DC Gareth Jordan said: “These types of blackmail normally fall into two categories and are called Sextortion –
1. Phishing style scams claim to have access to your webcam, using data obtained from a breached database of a well-known company. The phish is to get more info from the person, plus money.
2. The other form of incident is where “Victims are chatting online using a webcam during a sexualised video chat and their sexual activity is recorded. The victim is then blackmailed into paying money to ensure the video is not released.”
For this type of sextortion, any web enabled chat facility can be used. Dyfed-Powys Police have had reports from victims using Facebook, Instagram, Skype, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Chat Roulette and Antiland, although there are many other apps capable of allowing it to be carried out.
Blackmailers often claim to have hacked their device and set up a dual screen system where they could record what the victim was watching, as well as what they were doing. Victims are told the hacker has videos of them, which again would be shared with family and friends.
Dyfed-Powys Police offers this advice to anyone who receives similar threats online.
Don’t panic. Stay calm and report it to police immediately. Your case will be taken seriously, it will be dealt with in confidence, and no judgements will be made on your behaviour.
Don’t pay. In some cases where victims have paid in the hope that the threats will go away, they have continued to receive demands. If you have already paid, check if the money has been collected. If it has, and you are able to, make a note of where it was collected. If it hasn’t then you can cancel the payment – and the quicker the better.
Don’t communicate with the offender. Take screenshots of any conversations, deactivate the social media account they contacted you on and use online reporting processes to report the matter to the social media platform. Deactivating the account, rather than shutting it down, will ensure data is preserved and will assist police in obtaining evidence.
DC Jordan said: “The most important aspect in investigations of this kind is the safeguarding and support we offer to victims. People in this position feel embarrassed and vulnerable, and we need to ensure they are offered support, or know where to go to receive it.
“We urge all victims to report incidents to police – you are not alone, and by taking that step you could help prevent other people from becoming victims.”
To report blackmail or sextortion to Dyfed-Powys Police call 101. If you are at immediate threat of harm, always call 999.