There have been more than 40 reports of cyber criminals attempting to extort money in scam attempts including 'sextortion' from people across Northern Ireland in the past two days.
People in Antrim, Down, Tyrone and Londonderry have all been targeted by the fraudsters, many of whom have demanded thousands of pounds via email.
A senior police officer has appealed to the public not to be duped by the extortion attempts, in which victims are told if they don't pay £2,000, X-rated or compromising photos of them will be sent to their families or images and footage of them accessing pornographic websites will be released.
Others are phishing emails where scammers tell the recipient they have their password in an attempt to convince them they're a genuine threat, while there have also been reports of more traditional scams where scammers claim to be calling from a bank and ask for details.
Scammers have also pretended victims are due a refund after their MoT was cancelled and that bank details are needed to complete the process. They have also pretended to be workmen owed money from a householder after a job was completed.
Chief Superintendent Simon Walls says scammers will stop at nothing to dupe people, even during the global Covid-19 pandemic. "Thankfully, in relation to the reports we have received in the last few days, people appear to be aware of the fraudsters and it appears they haven't fallen for their scams," he said.
"Scammers are ruthless, unscrupulous individuals who don't care about the impact of their actions on victims, which can sometimes can be life changing and which often has a significant impact. All scammers care about is getting money from their victims.”
He appealed to parents to keep an eye on their child's online activity and the sites they are accessing now that they are spending more time at home.
"It's also important people have a conversation with their loved ones, and with each other, so they are aware of the extraordinary lengths scammers will go to and the abhorrent tactics they will employ.
“And, to any young person who may receive or has received one of these emails, please don't worry. Speak to your parent, guardian or someone you trust and do not reply to the email."
He reminded the public never to give out personal or financial information to an unverified source via email or over the phone.
“Only ever give that type of sensitive information to a verified source, and I would urge people who receive any of these types of email not to interact or reply to the scammers, but to forward details on to Action Fraud and contact us.
“People who receive such an email where the scammers claim to have their password should change their passwords as soon as possible. Please, do all you can to stop scammers taking your money," said Chief Superintendent Walls.
“I would urge people to be aware of cold callers and people claiming to carry out work on their house for a price, which will often be too good to be true. Be on your guard and do what you can to protect yourself financially.”
Action Fraud can be contacted via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 123 2040. Police can be contacted on the non-emergency number 101.
For further advice and information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni
Please also see https://www.psni.police.uk/advice_information/sextortion/