I was stupid, says Armagh man as African blackmail gang puts nude pics online
A married father from Armagh has spoken out after a gang of cybercrime blackmailers published intimate pictures of him online when he refused to hand over money.
The 42-year-old told the Belfast Telegraph he refused to pay £2,700 to an Ivory Coast gang - and the Facebook fraudsters followed through on their threats to publicly shame him.
In June last year a similar scam by a Nigerian gang was believed to have led to the suicide of 17-year-old Co Tyrone student Ronan Hughes.
Upon realising he had been duped by the gang, the man - who wished to be identified only by his first name Robert - said he confessed to his wife about his "stupid" mistake after revealing too much online.
"I had a friend request from somebody I don't know on Facebook," he said.
"I accepted it, and about five minutes later I received a message through Facebook messenger.
"A girl then called me on a video message - basically she stripped off and asked me to show her my bits.
"I stupidly done it and the next thing I know they were asking for $4,000 or they were going to send the pictures to everybody on my friends list."
After insisting he was unemployed and had no money to send, Robert said the gang swiftly posted the images online, trying to send them to his contacts, including his son and brother.
Despite deleting his social media account the images remain online.
Robert took screenshots on his phone of the threatening messages but said he believed there was nothing police could do.
"When I told my wife she blew up. I don't blame her, I feel stupid. But she doesn't want any of her family knowing about it," he said.
"I just wanted to warn other people. I took the only way to get out of it, which was to confess."
Reacting to Robert's story, online safety expert Jim Gamble said "sextortion" cases like this were being orchestrated on an "industrial scale" by gangs in Ivory Coast, Nigeria and the Philipines, as well as the United States.
He said that the PSNI was investigating many similar cases across Northern Ireland and urged Robert to share any information he could to assist with its investigations.
"I think a lot of people get involved in this because they don't see it as a real world betrayal, it's a person far away whom they'll never meet. Lots of men view it as if it's interactive pornography; it's not," he said.