Police issue a warning after six Northern Ireland men taken in by online sex scams
Six men in Northern Ireland have become victims of an internet sex scam in the past 10 days.
The men are being lured into performing intimate acts online by scammers who want to blackmail them, police have said. They say the scams predominantly target males aged from 25 to 40 online where they are contacted by social media profiles claiming to be that of attractive females.
The fake profiles then ask the males for nude images of themselves and later try to blackmail the individuals for money and threaten to share the images with all their friends if they do not pay up.
The PSNI has issued a fresh appeal in a bid to further raise awareness to social media users and urge them to report such incidents which now total three to four each week.
Detective chief inspector James Mullen said: "We all deserve to be able to use the internet to learn, explore and connect with each other. But all of us need to be aware of the risks involved in doing so, especially on social media.
"Males aged between 25 and 40 are the main users being targeted by these profiles which are not from the people in the photograph used.
"We have discovered profiles that originate in the Philippines and Ivory Coast but are definitely not who they say they are.
"They befriend vulnerable males and ask them for nude images of themselves or one of them performing indecent acts. In a few days time they then start the blackmail process, demanding money or inevitably threaten to send the images to all the target's social media friends.
"More often than not these criminals don't follow through with their threats but its not worth taking the risk in the first place," said the detective.
The PSNI has issued advice on what to do if anyone is targeted like this on social media.
DCI Mullen said: "Our advice is don't share personal information or images with people who you don't know.
"Do not get lured into compromising situations such as removing clothes or performing intimate acts online.
"You do not know who may see the images. It may seem like a bit of fun at the time but there is always a chance those images could be shared or get into the wrong hands and could lead to harmful situations such as stalking, abuse or blackmail.
"Don't accept friend requests with someone who you don't know.
"Everyone online may not be who they say they are. Set privacy settings on all devices so that only people you know can view your account.
"If something happens to you, do not pay any money. Do not respond to the blackmailer's demands, but report the issue to the police on 101 and the relevant social networking site so that action can be taken.
"We need people to come forward and report incidents so that we can investigate and hopefully prevent others from falling victim to this type of crime," he added.
The website www.getsafeonline.org offers lots of useful advice and information on how to stay safe online.