The number of UK sextortion victims has risen threefold in just two years

The number of UK sextortion victims has risen threefold in just two years, figures released today by the National Crime Agency (NCA) show.

In 2017, 1,304 cases of sextortion were reported to the NCA’s Anti-Kidnap and Extortion Unit (AKEU) by police forces across the UK.

This is almost three times more than the number of cases reported in 2015 in which organised crime groups (OCGs) use fake dating profiles to befriend victims and encourage them to live stream sex acts. Victims are often contacted through dating websites and believe they are in a genuine relationship. They are then persuaded to perform sex acts online which the OCGs record and threaten to share with the victim’s friends and family unless they are paid.

The actual figure of those sextorted is likely to be much higher, with many victims failing to report the crime to the authorities. Sextortion has a devastating impact on victims, with at least five suicides being linked to it.

Evidence suggests that sextortion is predominately committed by overseas criminal gangs, targeting young males aged 17-25 with an increasing number of British Armed Forces personnel being sextorted.

The latest figures also show men over 60 are also vulnerable the blackmail.

The NCA is releasing the figures to raise awareness and help prevent the crime. Users of dating websites and apps are warned to be wary of who they befriend and avoid being lured into compromising situations online. Victims are being urged to come forward and report the crime, with reassurance that they will be taken seriously and treated in confidence. They are advised not to make any payments, to stop all communication with the blackmailer and keep all evidence.

John Branney, from the National Crime Agency’s Anti-Kidnap and Extortion Unit, said:

“The upward trend in cases of sextortion and the devastating effect on victims are extremely worrying. Due to the nature of the crime we know there are a huge number of cases that go unreported and that the figures released today are just the tip of the iceberg.

“The release of these figures aims to highlight sextortion as a growing crime and help potential victims by showing them how they can protect themselves and what to do if they are targeted. We want victims to know that they are not alone and urge them to contact the police where they will be treated sensitively and in confidence.”

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