Some people use webcams and mobile device cameras for flirting and cybersex - but sometimes people you meet online aren't who they say they are.

What is sextortion?

Sextortion is webcam extortion where criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online – using applications such as Facebook and Skype – before enticing them to strip or perform sex acts in front of a webcam or mobile device camera. Victims are lured into thinking it a private act but the offender is actually recording everything and later threatens to share the images/video with the victims’ friends and family unless they pay them.

Both men and women can be victims of this crime and demands for money can range from a few hundred to thousands of pounds. The best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of this type of crime is to be very careful about who befriend online, particularly if you intend on sharing anything intimate with them.

What can you do to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of sextortion?

  • Be sensible when using the internet. Only activate your camera when you want to. Make sure it is 'off' at all times when not required. Never allow yourself to be duped into activity that you will later regret.
  • If using Skype be alert to the fact that 'contacts' are not always who they say they are. If you allow a relationship to develop be guarded if unusual requests are made of you.
  • If you use online chat rooms looking for a person to chat with - be careful about any relationship that you form and in particular if you are asked to transfer to Skype.
  • Some online chat rooms have a visual contact facility so if you are looking for a person to chat with and allow a relationship to form, be guarded on what you say and do.
  • Relationships are quick to develop. End any that you are not comfortable with - stay in control of what you do.
  • If you make a mistake, you have doubts or you need support or advice - contact the police or a support agency immediately.

What goes on the internet may stay on the internet forever. Even if the source is removed, screenshots or photos of them may still remain in people’s possession.

What to do if you're a victim of sextortion

  • If it is happening now, call the police on 999. If this has happened recently, call the police on 101.
  • Don’t panic. You have already taken the first big step by recognising that you are the 'victim' in this and that you may require support to help you through this difficult time. The police will take your case seriously, will deal with it in confidence, and will not make judgements on your behaviour.
  • Don’t pay. Although some victims who have paid what the offenders have demanded and hear no more about it, many others who have given in to ransom demands have then continued to receive further and often increasing requests for money. In some cases even when the demands have been met the offenders will still go on to post the videos anyway.
  • Don’t communicate further with the offenders. Obtain screen shots of any communication and write down as much information as possible.
  • Deactivate your Facebook account and use the online reporting process to report the matter to Skype, YouTube etc. to have any video blocked and to set up an alert in case the video resurfaces. Deactivating the Facebook account rather than shutting it down will ensure data is preserved and will assist law enforcement in obtaining evidence. The account can also be reactivated at any time ensuring online memories are not lost forever.
  • Report the matter to police and online service provider. If the blackmail is occurring through a social network, also alert the administrator.