Blackmailers are luring men into performing sexual acts online – before threatening to post the videos onto YouTube unless they send them thousands of pounds, police in the West Midlands revealed today.
The ‘sextortionists’ add their victims on social media such as Facebook or on internet chatrooms, police say.
They then flirt with them and lure them into performing sexual acts on video over Skype or Facetime.
The victims are then sent a message demanding money – alongside a screen grab to prove they have footage with threats that the videos will be posted online if it is not paid into an offshore bank account.
Police in the West Midlands have received eight such reports recently, with victims from Wolverhampton, Dudley, and Walsall.
Men aged up to 46 and boys as young as 14 have been targeted by the con artists. One victim even had the footage sent to his girlfriend, and the crooks also threatened to send it to his daughter.
West Midlands Police have now issued a warning to anyone who uses social media to be wary of the scam. Detective Constable Stefan Ashton, from West Midlands CID, has been looking into the reports.
He said: “Since January we’ve seen a rise in the number of these offences in the West Midlands with victims in Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Dudley, Walsall and Coventry.
“In most of the cases the videos have not actually been distributed, but it’s nevertheless been an absolutely horrendous ordeal for the people involved, who are understandably worried about such images and videos being posted online.
“The damage in the cases where the footage was shared with the victims’ Facebook friends cannot be underestimated − they are clearly devastated. The blackmailers are calculated and malicious and have complete disregard for the people they’re exploiting.” He added: “Cases of this type are notoriously complex and because IP addresses are usually traced back to foreign countries they often, despite our best efforts, go unsolved.
“The only real way to prevent this from happening is by not taking part in such activity at all.”
“The moment you reveal yourself in an online video, you become vulnerable to exploitation and it’s the blackmailers who instantly become in control.”