Northern Ireland

Online sex scam: PSNI warning after 62 NI users are blackmailed

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Image caption The PSNI said footage of the sex acts was recorded and the blackmailers threatened to publish the material on social media if the victims did not pay

Sixty-two men and women from Northern Ireland, who responded to requests to perform sex acts online, have been targeted by blackmailers.

The cases have all been uncovered in the past seven months - an average of two cases per week.

On Tuesday, the police issued a warning after it received "several local reports of cyber-related blackmail".

Recordings of the sex acts were used by blackmailers who threatened to publish the footage online if they did not pay.

The victims were told to transfer money to an account based in west Africa.

Women targeted

Ch Supt George Clarke said women, as well as men, are being deceived into performing sex acts online, which are recorded and later used to try to blackmail them.

Previously it was thought that only men had been targeted.

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Media captionThe PSNI said they had received more than 60 reports of cyber-related blackmail in recent months

Organised crime gangs, at home and abroad, are being blamed.

Mr Clarke urged any victims of the crimes to come forward and ring police on the non-emergency 101 number.

He said that although it was difficult to trace and delete the images and recover any money handed over, it was not impossible.

'Embarrassed'

The crimes happened in the Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus and Antrim areas of County Antrim.

The PSNI posted the warning on its Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus Facebook page.

In the statement, Det Sgt Neil Maxwell said: "In the most recent cases men of various ages have been asked to perform or participate in a sexual act online which is recorded and then used to blackmail the individual with threats to upload the material on to social media platforms.

"Some victims have paid money because they have felt embarrassed and this usually involves a Western Union transfer to an account in the Ivory Coast.

"We want anyone who has been the victim of this type of crime to come forward. Do not feel pressurised into paying money as this is unlikely to resolve the issue," the officer added.