The term sextortion encompasses various online offenses, with the most common being the act of online blackmail. In this scenario, criminals manipulate individuals by threatening to expose sexual or indecent images unless they comply with their demands, which often involve paying money or performing certain actions that benefit the criminals.
Sextortion can occur in different ways:
- Financial blackmail involving the use of sexual or indecent images that have been shared with someone you interacted with online.
- Financial blackmail using images that have been obtained through hacking, theft, or the use of image manipulation technology.
- Blackmail using sexual or indecent images that have been sent to someone, but with demands other than monetary payment. This could involve coercing you into doing something against your will, such as granting them access to your bank account.
Recognizing the Indications of Sextortion
It is important for victims of sextortion to understand that they have been deceived or tricked in some way, and the blame does not lie with them. These threats are often perpetrated by organized criminals who are solely motivated by financial gain. Whether an image was initially shared consensually, under coercion, or due to manipulation, the misuse of such images is an offense and should never be deemed acceptable.
Perpetrators of sextortion often assume false identities and rapidly send a large number of friend requests. If a new online connection engages in explicit conversations or demands sexual or indecent images, this may be an attempt at sextortion. If you have concerns, refrain from sharing any images. Sextortion attempts can rapidly escalate or occur over an extended period.
Common signs of sextortion attempts include:
- Rapid progression in the relationship: They try to establish a close bond with you hastily, displaying flirtatious behavior, expressing affection early on, or requesting sexual or indecent images. Some may even send such images to you first.
- Pressure to engage in uncomfortable activities: They persistently pressure you to participate in sexual activities that make you uncomfortable. It is never acceptable for someone to coerce you into doing something against your will, and there are resources available to help you.
- Claims of hacking or access to personal information: Some blackmailers may falsely claim to have hacked your devices or obtained compromising information about you. They may threaten to disclose this information unless you provide them with money.
If you engage in online conversations with new individuals:
– Ensure your privacy settings are secure. By limiting the visibility of your friends and family, scammers are less likely to make threats about sharing images or personal information. The National Cyber Security Centre provides information on how to use social media safely.
– End any relationships or contact that make you uncomfortable without hesitation.
– If you have doubts, need support, or suspect that you may be targeted, whether or not you are currently being threatened, do not hesitate to contact your local police force or seek assistance from the provided support pages.
Steps to Take if You Become a Victim of Sextortion
If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, it is crucial to remember that it is not your fault and that help and support are available.
Cease all communication with the offender immediately.
2. Refrain from paying
Although you may be tempted to comply with their demands, paying does not guarantee that the threats will cease. Once it becomes evident that you are willing to pay, the offender will likely demand more money, prolonging the blackmail.
3. Secure evidence, if possible
Capture screenshots of the offender’s profile information. Save messages and images as evidence, and take note of usernames, email addresses, phone numbers, or bank account details.
4. Collect URLs and links
If your images have been shared online, gather any available URLs and links for future reference.
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