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What to do if you've been victim to online webcam blackmail, also known as sextortion

What is sextortion?

Sextortion, also known as ‘webcam blackmail’, is when intimate images and videos are recorded and used for financial exploitation and coercion.

How does it happen?

The majority of cases involve individuals meeting via social media or dating websites and forming a relationship through conversation. The blackmailer often assumes the identity of a stereotypically attractive man or woman who, after gaining the victim's trust, will quickly persuade them into sending intimate images or videos or will record sexual content without the victim’s knowledge or consent. The images and videos will then be used to blackmail them for money or further sexual content. Sextortion can be committed by an individual or by organised criminal gangs overseas. 

Keep calm 

You haven’t done anything wrong and what’s happened is not your fault. You are not alone and we are here to help you. We know it’s easier said than done but try to keep calm and follow this advice:

1. Collect evidence

 We encourage victims to keep all messages as evidence. If you can, try to take screenshots of the messages where threats are made and if bank details are given.

2. Do not give them any time or money and do not negotiate

They want to engage with you so they can threaten you and exert pressure. Block and do not respond to any more messages. The amount they ask for is designed to be just enough to encourage you to pay. It will not be enough and they will come back and demand more.

3. Report, block and stop communication.

Once you have collected evidence, we would encourage you to block and stop all communication. If you can, try to report and block the user on the platform they are threatening you on. See our advice here on how to report to social media. If the platform isn't on the list, there should be a reporting tool or advice via the platform.

4. Report to the police

It is against the law in the UK for someone to threaten to share, or share, an intimate image/video without consent. You can report what has happened to the police by calling the non emergency number 101. If the perpetrator of the crime is overseas, the police may be limited in what they can do, however reporting will add to the national intelligence on these types of crime. 

You can find more advice and information about this crime from the National Crime Agency here.

If at any point you feel like you are at immediate risk of physical danger, contact the police on 999. 

5. Talk to the helpline 

Let us know where they are threatening to share your intimate images and videos and we will do our best to provide you with some more specific advice. If the image or video is being threatened to be shared on Facebook, Facebook Messenger or Instagram, and you have access to the images, you can find more information about the Facebook Pilot which works to digitally hash intimate images and prevent them from being shared on those three platforms. Find information on the Facebook Pilot here

You may also want to review and raise your privacy settings and set up Google Alerts in your name so that you can track uploaded content that relates to you. 

6. Reach out for more support 

We understand how distressing this can be: make sure you reach out for support to help you cope with what has happened. 

You can find more support services and organisations that might be able to give more help here.

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