Sex­tor­tion alert by cops

Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News - - Yourviews - BY OLIVER CLAY oliver.clay@trin­i­tymir­ @Oliv­erClayRWWN

KINKY thrillseek­ers look­ing for ex­cite­ment by shar­ing pic­tures of them­selves via texts and on­line have been urged to steer clear of be­com­ing a vic­tim of ‘sex­tor­tion’ to crim­i­nal gangs and other crooks.

Sergeant Chris Mad­docks, of Run­corn Lo­cal Polic­ing Unit, said there have been sev­eral cases in the town.

He said sexual ex­tor­tion, nick­named ‘sex­tor­tion’, mainly comes in the form of black­mail, with per­pe­tra­tors threat­en­ing to pub­lish pic­tures of their vic­tims in com­pro­mis­ing sit­u­a­tions un­less they re­ceive pay­ment of some kind.

The crime can span all ages from chil­dren to OAPs and has boomed with the rise of smart­phones, we­b­cams, the in­ter­net and trends such as ‘sex­ting’ – send­ing sexual con­tent via text mes­sages.

Vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors might know each other or they might never have met if im­ages have been shared on­line.

Some­times cul­prits even pose as at­trac­tive, flir­ta­tious and ex­otic love in­ter­ests that are en­tirely fake in or­der to per­suade their in­tended prey to send in­ti­mate videos, known as ‘cat­fish­ing’.

Or­gan­ised crime gangs are among those com­mit­ting the crime, lur­ing vic­tims via fake so­cial me­dia pro­files then mak­ing de­mands with men­aces once they have some pic­tures that could be deemed em­bar­rass­ing if made pub­lic or sent to friends and rel­a­tives.

In May, the Na­tional Crime Agency (NCA) warned that sex­tor­tion af­fect­ing male vic­tims has reached record lev­els, rock­et­ing to three times the num­ber of cases re­ported two years ago. ●

The NCA’s anti-kid­nap and ex­tor­tion unit re­ceived 1,304 re­ports from UK po­lice forces in 2017, but fig­ures are ex­pected to be much higher.

It said ev­i­dence sug­gests that sex­tor­tion is pre­dom­i­nately com­mit­ted by over­seas crim­i­nal gangs, tar­get­ing young males aged 17-25 with an in­creas­ing num­ber of Bri­tish Armed Forces per­son­nel be­ing sex­torted.

Men over 60 are also of­ten vul­ner­a­ble to black­mail, the fig­ures in­di­cate, and the im­pact can be ‘dev­as­tat­ing’, with at least five UK sui­cides linked to it.

Vic­tims have been re­as­sured they will be taken se­ri­ously and in con­fi­dence.

They are ad­vised not to make any pay­ments, stop all com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the black­mailer, keep all ev­i­dence and contact the po­lice.

Run­corn po­lice have warned via so­cial me­dia that res­i­dents need to be switched on and vig­i­lant about the risks around shar­ing in­ti­mate im­ages.

Sgt Mad­docks said: “We’ve had cases of sex­tor­tion in Run­corn and it’s a grow­ing fig­ure lo­cally and the rea­son for that tweet was to make sure that peo­ple are aware that what they do on the in­ter­net could have real life con­se­quences.

“The mes­sage is to re­main cau­tious about who we’re speak­ing to, how well we know that per­son on­line and do we want to send them in­ti­mate pho­to­graphs of our­selves.”

Sgt Mad­docks warned that un­der-18s en­gag­ing in sex­ting with each other where there is no in­tent to com­mit black­mail can be pros­e­cuted any­way for shar­ing in­de­cent im­ages of chil­dren and then to live with such a crim­i­nal record, al­though some caveats ex­ist for over-16s in long-term re­la­tion­ships.

Call Cheshire po­lice on 101.

Don’t strip off on cam­era: who’s re­ally watch­ing?

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