The Sunday Telegraph

Elderly targeted by revenge porn scammers

Increasing numbers of fraudsters pose as potential romantic partners before tricking victims out of cash

- By Max Stephens

OVERSEAS “sextortion” gangs are increasing­ly targeting the elderly and middle-aged with an almost four-fold rise in over 40s falling victim to revenge porn, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

Lonely victims, some as old as 80, are being preyed on by profession­al scammers who are tricking older people into sending intimate images and videos of themselves by posing as potential romantic partners online.

The fraudsters, largely in the Philippine­s, Ivory Coast and Morocco, then threaten to upload the images online or send them to their friends, family and employers unless a ransom is paid.

Nearly 2,000 cases affecting this age group were reported to British police over the past six years. Some victims resign from their jobs, harm themselves or even take their own lives. Charities warned isolation and loneliness caused by lockdown has fuelled an increase in such cases over the past year with many seeking companions­hip online.

New data reveal that cases of revenge porn have sharply risen among older age groups, since it became an offence in April 2015.

Figures obtained through Freedom of Informatio­n requests from 35 out of the 43 police forces across England and Wales show 1,903 reports were brought by people over the age of 40 since 2015.

In 2015, just 107 cases were reported but by 2020 this had nearly quadrupled to 390. London alone saw cases soar from just 11 in 2015 to 60 last year.

Forces in Manchester, Birmingham, Kent and West Yorkshire reported the highest number of cases in England.

Charities warned these figures are “the tip of the iceberg” and say as many as 10,000 over 40s are likely to have fallen prey to sextortion­ists.

Neil Henderson, of Safeline, which supports victims of sex abuse, estimated that only one in six victims report this crime due to the “embarrassm­ent, shame and humiliatio­n”. He said: “For older individual­s a lot of it is around financial harm. There are a number of people who have told us they have lost their jobs or choose to resign because they can’t face their colleagues.

“For a lot of people that age, there are a lot of suicide tendencies that come out, self-harm and social rupturing.”

The Revenge Porn Helpline, which removes images from social media and porn sites, said it is a battle to delete as it is shared so rapidly across the internet.

Sophie Mortimer, who runs the helpline, said: “We are more likely to see a certain naivety in older people about when they meet somebody new online and whether that person is who they say they are. We have had clients in their 80s, we have seen it all. We see a lot of sextortion where it’s predominan­tly men being contacted by someone they think is a woman but it’s actually an overseas crime gang.”

In Oued Zem, Morocco, up to 3,000 people earn a living through sexually extorting. Victims, often Westerners, are tricked into performing sex acts on webcam before blackmaile­rs threaten to send the video to their friends and family. The scammers demand ransoms of around £800 to delete the footage.

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