There have never been more people at home, alone, bored and wanting something to do. There might be a temptation to meet new people online, as the internet counts as social distancing right? That’s okay, nothing wrong with meeting new friends or starting a new online relationship – staying sociable through these difficult times is very important. Though online dating does come with a big warning sign: not everyone is who they say they are. Some of us might have seen MTV’s ‘Catfish: the TV show’ and put our detective hats on every time we meet someone new to check out who they ACTUALLY are, but for others that’s just not second nature.
Sextortion, or ‘webcam blackmail’, is unfortunately a common crime we see daily on the Helpline. It’s often run by organised crime gangs operating from a call centre-like environment, exploiting several people at once for financial gain. They will encourage you to have some sexual fun by sharing pictures or video chatting and then start to blackmail you with these pictures or videos. They will apply as much pressure as possible, sending constant messages, calling, screenshotting your friends list to show you who they’ll share the video with until you give in and pay the demand. Then it won’t stop – threats and demands for more money will continue again and again.
For example, this might be a situation:
You’re browsing through Facebook. *Ping*, a friend request from a VERY attractive person. Accept. You start chatting about your boredom, how long you’ve been self-isolating for, whether you’re a cat or dog person. They suggest sharing some naughty pics or video chatting, things get frisky and with encouragement from them, you let loose (literally). All of a sudden, the fun stops and the blackmail threats start. Give them £500 or they’ll release the video on Facebook to all your friends and family.
Obviously, not everyone you meet online if going to turn out like this, and in fact, around 30% of relationships start online and there’s lots of Tinderellas and Tinderfellas living APPily ever after! So, what should you look out for when chatting to people online to avoid a potentially dangerous situation?
- Check their social media profiles, does it look realistic?
- How many friends do they have?
- Are there not many posts, or generic posts that lack reality?
- How quickly are things moving?
What can you do if you get blackmailed?
You haven’t done anything wrong and you’re not to blame. Try to keep calm and follow the advice from the Revenge Porn Helpline and get in touch for more help and support:
- Don’t panic and stay calm
- Do not pay any money they might request, they’ll only ask for more
- Report the profile
- Block and stop ALL communication
- Get in touch with the Revenge Porn Helpline for more advice
- If the threats are to share the image/video on Facebook and you meet the criteria below we work on a project with Facebook to digitally hash intimate images/videos to prevent them from being shared on Facebook, Facebook Messenger and Instagram.Read more about this here.
- It is an intimate image or video (this cannot be a conversation or screenshot of a chat)
- You have the original image/video they are threatening to share
- The image/video has not already been shared on Facebook, Facebook Messenger or Instagram
Most importantly, look after yourself – it’s been stressful. Due to current world events (trying not to mention the C word here, the other C word that is) it might appear that it’s not an easy time to get emotional support but many organisations are operating as normal. Please reach out for some more support to help you cope with what has happened.
It’s a difficult world becoming more and more strange and scary with each daily PM update. Be kind, be patient and take care.