Online crime Image by frank peters AdobeStock_70684918

Bedfordshire Police is reminding social media users of the risk of sharing intimate images online after receiving several recent reports of ‘sextortion’. The Force said it had received 12 reports of this type of blackmail in the last month.

So-called ‘sextortion’ involves victims being lured into performing sexual acts, or taking intimate images. Unbeknown to the victims, their acts are often recorded by the criminals who then use the images to blackmail them.

The fraudsters may threaten to upload the content to the internet, and send it to the victim’s friends or family if they do not comply with their demands.

In the majority of cases, the motive is financially driven. Victims may end up paying large sums of money to the offender, who may even be based in an entirely different country.

A change in legislation in June 2021 made the threats of disclosure of private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress, commonly referred to as the sharing or posting of ‘revenge porn’ online, illegal.

Detective Sergeant Thomas Hamm said:

“We would advise anyone against sending intimate pictures or performing sexual acts online, as once in they are in the cyber arena they can never be completely deleted.

“It is also important to remember that you should never transfer money or give away personal information to people you’ve never physically met. Only accept friend requests on social media from people you know in real life, as if something seems too good to be true, sadly it probably is.

“There is a growing trend for online fraudsters to dupe innocent, trusting victims, but thankfully some who have been subjected to this cruel practice have felt able to come forward so that police can investigate, collate evidence and do all in our power to bring offenders to justice.”

Bedfordshire Police advice on how to protect yourself from fraud online:

  • Not everyone online is who they say they are and it’s easy for people to hide their real intentions, so only speak to people you know in real life
  • Never transfer money or share bank details, PINs and passwords with people you don’t know and trust
  • If someone you are speaking to online makes you feel uncomfortable, or you witness any suspicious behaviour, contact police
  • Think twice before you post online – once something has been shared in the digital world it is almost impossible to completely remove it. Often intimate images can be used as blackmail so never send anything you would not be comfortable sharing with a wider audience
  • If you feel you have been a victim of fraud online, break off all contact, do not send any more money, report the fraudster to the website or chat room operator and call police on 101

More information on cyber crime can be found on the National Crime Agency’s website.

If you have been affected by crime, Signpost offers free and confidential support to victims in Bedfordshire, whether it has been reported to police or not, and irrespective of where and when the crime occurred.

Contact 0800 0282887 or visit Signpost for Bedfordshire for further information.