At least five British men and boys have killed themselves after falling victims to online “sextortion”, as criminal gangs target more people
than ever before.
Police are appealing for people to seek help in confidence if they are affected by the crime, which is affecting thousands of people in the UK every year and feared to be significantly under-reported.
The scam sees victims conned into believing they are talking online to an attractive person, who encourages them to perform a sexual act on webcam as they play a pre-recorded video purporting to be doing the same.But the target is covertly recorded and the images are then used to blackmail them into paying large sums of money to prevent them being published online or sent to their loved ones.Among the victims is 17-year-old Ronan Hughes from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland.A Romanian gang tricked him into sending intimate photographs of himself by posing as a girl
called “Emily Magee” in June 2015.They then sent them to his friends because he was unable to pay a €3,000 (£2,600) ransom.Hours after they were shared online, Ronan – remembered as a “happy go lucky” and loved teenager – killed himself.An international investigation later traced the culprits to the Romanian city of Timisoara and saw the ringleader jailed for four years, while sextortion rings have also been uncovered operating on an “industrial scale” from call centre-style offices in the Philippines.Investigators believe the problem is rising globally, and South Wales Police alone is receiving five cases a fortnight so far in 2018.The vast majority of known activity comes from organised gangs based abroad, but individuals could also seek to profit by demanding thousands of pounds from each victim