Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Alert over online blackmailing after harassed teenager commits suicide

Charities and internet security experts have warned of the growing danger of cyber blackmail in the wake of the suicide of a teenager who was being harassed online.

Daniel Perry killed himself after he was threatened that webcam chats he believed he was having with an American girl would be played to his family and friends unless he paid money into a bank account.

It is believed his blackmailers found his Skype address through social media sites he used. It was reported he had also been urged to commit suicide on the social networking site Ask.fm which has been linked to five other deaths, including that of 14-year-old Hannah Smith in Leicestershire.

Police in Scotland said they were investigating the death last month of 17-year-old Daniel, a trainee mechanic from Dunfermline, Fife.

Meanwhile, child protection experts urged young people never to give away their real identity or exchange images of themselves with anyone they met on the internet. While less common than online bullying, online blackmail is an increasingly frequent international phenomenon. Alberic Guigou, of the internet company Reputation Squad, said he dealt with up to 10 cases a day in France.

"People find you on Skype, social media networks, and they try to trap you into giving away your personal information, especially pictures and videos of you naked. Most (of the perpetrators) are professional scammers. But sometimes it is people who go to school with you or people from work," he said.

Jim Gamble, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, who now runs his own online safety company, INEQE, said the threat of being exposed for private sexual behaviour massively increased the power tormenters' threats had over vulnerable young people.

"Bullying has always existed. but this is a wake-up call for us. We need to do something radical so there are real consequences for virtual bullying."

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