Police sound warning on risks of social media as 'webcam blackmail' cases soar

Thursday, 3 August 2017

POLICE are urging people in the local community to be aware of the risks of social media. They are reminding users to reject friendship requests from strangers and refrain from getting "lured into compromising situations" such as removing clothes or performing intimate acts online.

"We all deserve to be able to use the internet to learn, explore and connect with each other. But all of us need to be aware of the risks involved in doing so, especially on social media," said Detective Chief Inspector William Tate.

The number of people reporting 'webcam blackmail' has more than doubled over the past year. 'Webcam blackmail' usually involves people being lured into taking off some or all of their clothes in front of their webcam, only to be told that they have been recorded and that the video will be posted online and/or shown to the victim's contacts unless a fee is paid - usually a substantial sum of money. Sometimes, the victim is also enticed into performing intimate acts.

"Police are committed to fully investigating this type of crime when it is reported to us, however, we want to do all we can be raise awareness so this doesn't happen at all," said the Detective Chief Inspector.


Omagh town councillor, Chris Smyth, has echoed the police's appeals.

"The internet can be a dark and nasty place if you aren't careful," he said. "People can hide behind fake profiles and fake names. I would urge anyone who is on the internet, especially internet dating sites, to be wary. Once an image is sent via the internet, it can surface anywhere and some people can use it to damage you.

"My advice is to never send anything to anyone that you wouldn't want published in the public domain, especially something sexual as this can cause severe embarrassment. I would also like to add that while 'catfishing', the name given to pretending to be someone else in order to obtain information, is not illegal in itself, blackmail is and carries a substantial penalty in law."


Police have said it is important to remember the following:

* Do not get lured into compromising situations such as removing clothes or performing intimate acts online. You do not know who may see the images.

* Always remember that what goes online may well stay online.

* Be wary about who you invite or accept invitations from on social networking sites. Do not accept friendship requests from complete strangers ... you would not do this in real life.


* Update the privacy settings on your social networking accounts so only people you know can view your account.

* Do not include any sensitive, private or confidential information in profiles.

* If you use online dating sites, choose those that offer the ability to email prospective dates using a service that conceals both parties' true email addresses.

* Also on dating sites, set up a separate email account that does not use your real name. This is very simple and quick to do using such providers as Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or gmail.

* Quickly block nuisance and fraudulent users from further contact with you and also report them for abuse.

* If you become a victim of this type of scam, do not respond to the blackmailer's demands, but report the issue to the police and the relevant social networking site.

* If you think that you have been persuaded by anyone to part with payment details, contact your bank or card issuer immediately.


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