Police chief urges islanders to be vigilant to avoid becoming a victim of ‘sextortion’

In his first contribution to what is set to become a regular column, chief inspector Paul Daley warns of the dangers of ‘sextortion’ and reassures the community that help is at hand

THE INTERNET is ubiquitous nowadays and our everyday lives, whether at work or at home is to a large extent dependent on it, whether that be for watching films, gaming, or having business meetings with colleagues.

The consequent proliferation of social media sites and apps via the internet has been excellent for keeping in touch with friends and family, however a darker side comes with it too, and by that I mean the increase in so called “sextortion” cases nationally.

Shetland has not bucked this trend in any way, and we are still receiving reports of people who have been “sextorted” in the isles, usually via the popular social media site Facebook.

Victims tend to be young men, aged 14-25 who receive a “friend request” from someone they don’t know, accept it (thus giving the person access to their lists of friends and family) and after some initial chat the conversation turns more graphic with the victim being asked to take off their clothes in front of a webcam and/or perform a sexual act.

The victim believes this to be a private act, but it is not – they are in fact more than likely being recorded.

The offender, having captured the video, then demands money which if not paid threaten to share the images taken on social media to their friends list or indeed to other websites. They sometimes directly contact the person’s partner.

As a police service we have made huge advances in detecting crime in the cyber world, however this can be challenging in these circumstances because most of these type of offenders tend to be overseas.

Prevention is of course the best way forward here, so I am asking all Shetlanders to think twice before accepting friend requests from people they don’t know or indeed engaging with people they don’t know, but more importantly to think about what they are doing online.

Having said that if you do get into a situation whereby you are being extorted, don’t panic and don’t pay!

Instead, take screenshots of the conversation as evidence and make notes of all details provided by the offenders, for example the Facebook URL or SKYPE ID (bearing in mind that the Skype name is different to the Skype ID) as well as the account details they have given you.

Deactivate your social media account (don’t delete it), and ask the platform to block any video that has been posted, then let us know.

We will arrange to see you and start and investigation; we won’t judge you and we will remind you that you are the victim of organised criminals and that you are not alone. We will support you and reassure you that you can and will get through it!

The internet and social media apps are generally a big plus and make our lives easier, but we all need to think twice about who we are interacting with and what we are doing in the virtual space.

Police in Shetland can be contacted via telephone 101 or by calling along the Lerwick police station.