Belfast Telegraph

PSNI received 167 reports of sextortion in last year

Awareness: Det Supt Rowan Moore
Awareness: Det Supt Rowan Moore

By Christopher Leebody

Three cases of online sexual blackmail are reported to police every week in Northern Ireland, new figures show.

The PSNI was contacted about 167 incidents in the 12 months to September this year.

The figures were revealed yesterday as the police force launched a new campaign.

#StopSextortionNI is a social-media awareness initiative targeting those most at risk of sexual extortion online - including those in their 50s and 60s alongside teenagers.

The PSNI has commissioned a new animated video explaining the dangers to online users in sharing images over the internet. This is to be distributed across its social media channels.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail in which individuals or organised crime groups pose as interested strangers online, befriending their victim with a fake identity on social media or dating apps, before blackmailing them into sending intimate photos and videos.

The images are then used by criminals to extort hundreds or even thousands of pounds from the victim.

If they don't comply, victims are threatened with potentially embarrassing images being released to their friends and family.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, PSNI Detective Superintendent Rowan Moore explained that the real figure of those impacted by this crime may be much higher than reported, because of nature of the crime.

He said: "We would be worried that it may be under reported in some circumstances, due to the fact that the victims to this type of crime sometimes would be embarrassed about being caught or duped in this way and the nature of the crime makes people feel reluctant to report it.

"We have seen 167 incidents in the last calendar year and we are aware that this is the time of year that incidents generally tend to spike.

"We wanted to raise awareness among the online community and the public, so they can prevent themselves from becoming victims or know what to do when they do become a victim to this type of crime."

As part of its advice to those caught up in it, the PSNI advised victims to avoid paying any sums of money and "to come forward and report it to the police".

"Anybody who is the victim of such a crime should be reassured we are able to deal with it," Mr Moore added.

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