Hastings ‘sextortion’ victim told naked pictures would be put on internet for his friends and neighbours to see
Police have today issued a warning about ‘sextortion’ and dangers of interacting with strangers online after a Hastings man fell victim to the crime.
A man in his 60s was contacted by email by someone purporting to be a woman who he had met on a webchat, after they had talked for about eight days.
In March this year, the woman asked him for money so she could get a phone contract.
Sussex Police said he sent £20 to a mobile number abroad, believing that she lived in Africa.
He then received an email from her stating that unless he paid she would put the naked photos he had previously sent her via the Internet for all his friends and neighbours to see, and she added, ‘good luck, everyone will know’.
Police said the victim felt under pressure so told his wife and daughter and despite demands refused to send any further money.
His refusal worked, as he later learned that the image had been deleted once he made it clear that the police had been told.
Police added that the experience made the victim feel very low and depressed.
He had little money himself and this has caused him extra distress, police added.
The victim was assigned a fraud caseworker from Victim Support who specialises in providing emotional and practical support to medium and high risk victims of fraud/scams.
Sussex Police said there have been more than 100 reports of sextortion across the county so far this year.
Sextortion is a form of blackmail where a perpetrator threatens to reveal intimate images of the victim online unless they give in to their demands.
These demands are typically for money or further images.
Many victims are young men, but the older Hastings man spoke out after becoming one of the latest victims.
In the first eight months of 2021, Sussex Police said it has recorded 106 reports of sextortion, with a total loss of £14,939. 92 per cent of victims were males, and 69 per cent of those were under 29.
Sixty of the victims were in West Sussex, 32 were in East Sussex and 14 were in Brighton and Hove.
Police said criminals often befriend victims online by using a fake identity and then persuade them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam.
They then threaten to share the images with the victims’ friends and family which can make the victims feel embarrassed and ashamed, and prevent them from coming forward to report the incident.
Typically victims are contacted on social media platforms, mainly Facebook and Instagram. They are then often asked to move to platforms such as Google Hangouts and WhatsApp.
Payments are often made to fraudsters via PayPal, MoneyGram, Western Union, Tap Tap or Gift cards.
PC Bernadette Lawrie, Surrey & Sussex financial abuse safeguarding officer, said: “Sextortion is an awful and exploitative crime, commonly carried out through social media sites. It causes extreme distress to victims who may feel too embarrassed to come forward and report the incidents.
“Although it can be committed by individuals, organised crime is commonly behind it. Perpetrators can be located anywhere, with many based overseas. Those viewing, downloading or forwarding any such material are committing further serious criminal offences.
“Please be wary of requests from strangers online and don’t share intimate videos or engage in sexual activity with people you don’t know.
“Anyone who has been the victim of cyber related blackmail is asked to come forward and report it to police online, or by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency.”
For more information about Operation Signature, Sussex Police’s campaign to identify and protect vulnerable victims of fraud, visit www.sussex.police.uk.