Are you Under 18, or seeking advice on behalf of someone who is? Please refer to our CEOP Website for relevant advice.
Throughout 2022 and 2023, in the UK and internationally, there has been an increase in reporting of ‘Financially Motivated Sexual Extortion’– often referred to as ‘sextortion’.
Although victims of any age are potential targets, children aged 15-17 years and adults aged 18-30 are particularly at risk.
These types of sextortion scams are run by sophisticated organised criminal gangs, often operating overseas. The NCA is working with law enforcement across the UK and internationally on this rapidly increasing threat.
What is Sextortion?
Sextortion can refer to a variety of offences committed online. It is most often used to describe online blackmail, where criminals threaten to release sexual/indecent images of you, unless you pay money or do something else to benefit them.
Sextortion may be:
- Financial blackmail using sexual / indecent images that have been sent to somebody you’ve had contact with online.
- Financial blackmail using images that have been stolen from you, taken through hacking or have been faked using image altering technology.
- Blackmail using sexual/indecent images that have been sent to somebody, but with a demand for something other than money. This might be a demand for you to do something you don’t want to, like give them use of your bank account.
While victims of Sextortion may feel distressed or blame themselves, they have been tricked or deceived in some way - it is not their fault. These threats are often committed by organised criminals motivated only by money. It does not matter if an image was initially shared with your consent or through threats or manipulation - the misuse of your image is an offence and is never OK.
Offenders will often pose as other people, and send a large number of friend requests quickly. If a new connection engages in sexual chat, or asks for sexual/indecent images, this might be an attempt at sextortion. If you are concerned do not share any images. Sextortion attempts can escalate very quickly, or take place over a longer period of time.
Typical signs of sextortion attempts may include:
- They’re moving too fast. They try to develop a relationship with you very quickly. They might be flirty, tell you they like you very early on, or ask for sexual / indecent images. Some may even send a sexual / indecent image to you first.
- They pressure you to do things you’re not comfortable with. They may repeatedly ask you to do sexual things you don’t feel comfortable with. It’s never ok for someone to ask you to do things you don’t want to and there are places you can get help.
- They might tell you they’ve hacked you or that they have access to your contacts. Some blackmailers might tell you they’ve got images or information about you from your device. They might threaten to share this information unless money is given to them.
If you are chatting to new people online:
- Keep a close eye on your privacy settings – if scammers can’t see who your friends and family are, they’re less likely to be able to make threats to share images or information. The National Cyber Security Centre has information on how to use social media safely here.
- If you’re not comfortable with any new relationships or contact, end it quickly.
- If you have doubts or need support, or are worried you might be being targeted- whether or not anyone is actively threatening you - contact your local police force or any of the other support pages below.
What to do if you’re a victim of sextortion
If this has happened to you, it is not your fault and there is help and support available.
- Stop all communication with the offender immediately.
- You may be tempted to pay, but there is no guarantee that this will stop the threats. The offender’s motive is to get money, once you have shown you can pay, they will likely ask for more and the blackmail may continue.
- Preserve evidence, if possible. Take screenshots of the offender’s profile information. Save messages and images, and make a note of usernames, email addresses, phone numbers or bank account numbers.
- If your images have been shared online, collect URLs and links if you can.
- Report the incident to your local police force by calling 101.
- Under 18’s can report sextortion, or any other form of online child sexual abuse, to their local police force by calling 101, or to the NCA’s CEOP Safety Centre
These are the quickest ways to report an offence. Reporting helps UK Law Enforcement to best support you and hold criminals responsible.
However, we understand you may find it difficult to report this type of crime to us, so it may help you to talk to someone first. Some of our charity partners can offer you support.
If you are in severe distress and thinking about harming yourself, call 999 immediately.
The NHS also has help and support information for anyone with suicidal thoughts here. You do not have to struggle with difficult feelings alone. Let family or friends know how you are feeling. They may be able to offer support and help keep you safe.
We understand the impact that this type of crime can have. The following organisations are available for further advice and support:
For children under 18
- Report Remove - for young people to confidentially report sexual images and videos of themselves, for help to remove them from the internet.
- Childline – free, confidential support online and over the phone for young people under 19.
- Young Minds – mental health charity for children, young people, offering advice, information and 24/7 text support.
For adults over 18
- Your local police force website.
- Revenge porn helpline – free, confidential help and support for adult victims of intimate image abuse living in the UK.
- Stop NCII (Non-Consensual Intimate Image Abuse) – free tool to help detect and remove images from being shared online.
- Samaritans – free, confidential listening service for any issue, with no pressure or judgement.
If you’ve paid the person, consider getting in touch with your bank. They may not be able to recover payments you have authorised, but will be able to help UK Law Enforcement better understand the threat.
If you’ve been the victim of Phishing or a hacking incident, or you need advice on protecting your data online please visit:
If you aren’t being threatened or extorted, but think a partner you met online might be trying to get money from you, this could be romance fraud. Please visit: