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Sextortion figures leap by almost 50 per cent across Scotland

By Alan Beresford

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REPORTED sextortion incidents in Scotland have rocketed by almost a half, new figures have revealed.

Reports of sextortion in Scotland have risen sharply.
Reports of sextortion in Scotland have risen sharply.

Between January and August 2020, 283 crimes were recorded, an increase of 44 per cent on the same period in 2019, when 196 offences were reported.

Sextortion is cyber-enabled extortion which involves the threat of sharing sexual information, images or clips to extort money from people, whether images actually exist or not. Footage or images obtained through webcam recording or from footage or images provided by the victim, were used as leverage in 236 (83 per cent) of reported incidents.

Two thirds of the extortions (189 incidents) demanded money from the victim to avoid disclosure of sexual images or footage they had unwittingly provided to criminals. Sextortion victims were aged between 10 and85, with the majority (64 per cent or 182) aged 25 and under.

Assistant Chief Constable Pat Campbell, Police Scotland, said: “Becoming a victim of extortion is devastating particularly if the extortion involves the threat of sexual exposure.

“Social media has become the default for communicating and meeting people during lockdown, for both adults and children. Criminals are targeting people online and tapping into vulnerabilities.

“It is distressing to realise that actions you thought were private are now a source of threat. It is a particularly worrying trend that we are now seeing increasing numbers of children being targeted and threatened in this way.

“Criminals don’t care about the hurt or damage they cause, they only care about money. And once they identify a victim it is likely their demands will continue.

“We can’t underestimate how important online apps and platforms have been for people during lockdown but sometimes the people you meet online are not who they say they are. We want people to be aware of the risks and stay safe online.

“If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sextortion please contact the police. Every report will be treated seriously, sensitively and you will be treated with respect.”

Girls and young women aged under 18 were most vulnerable to being targeted for images. Young men in their late teens/early twenties were the most vulnerable to being targeted for money.

In order to avoid becoming victims of sextortion, Police Scotland have issued a number of simple tips:

  • Consider what you share and who you share it with. They should, ideally, only share pictures online that they are happy with their friends, family and others seeing.
  • The simplest way to avoid falling victim is to refrain from accepting friend requests from people you don't know.
  • Parents of children who are gaming and streaming online should check the security settings on these platforms to try and prevent any offenders contacting them.
  • If there is anyone asking you to do something that you believe to be wrong online, please let your parents, guardians or teachers know, or contact police on 101. You will be supported and your report will be taken in the utmost confidence.

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