Sextortion 'on the rise' as police urge victims to come forward

Figures published on Friday show an increase in reported crimes of threats and extortion.

Scottish sextortion victims urged to report incidents to police as crime ‘on the rise’ PA Media

Police have warned that cases of sextortion are on the rise and urged victims to come forward to ensure they receive support.

Sexual extortion involves the threat of having sexual information, photos or videos shared with others. 

It is carried out to extort money or force a victim to do something against their will, control behaviour or obtain further images.

Figures published on Friday by Police Scotland show an increase in reported crimes of threats and extortion compared to last year and since changes in crime recording introduced in April 2020.

Between April and September 2023 there were 1,430 crimes of threats and extortion compared to 819 in the same period last year (74%) and the five year mean of 443 or 223%. 

Analysis shows much of this relates to sextortion-style crimes.

Assistant chief constable David Duncan said: “Sextortion is blackmail and those targeted should not pay, nor should they be embarrassed or scared to report it to police.

“We are experiencing an increase in the number of sextortion incidents being reported and although we are encouraged that victims appear more confident in coming forward, we know from our partners that it is still likely to be an under-reported offence.

“Criminals use the internet, social media, dating apps, web cams or pornography sites and fake identities to befriend people online and then threaten to send images to their family and friends.

“People shouldn’t panic, there is support available from policing and from third party organisations. We want people to know they will be treated with respect and dignity and the circumstances investigated professionally.

“There is information available on the Police Scotland website on ways you can stay safe online – such as not sharing intimate images.”

Sextortion can be committed by individuals however, organised crime gangs based overseas are also believed to be responsible.

The performance report also noted that homicides, attempted murders and serious assaults remain at similar levels compared to last year and lower than the five-year average.

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