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by Jenni Davidson
17 March 2021
Significant rise in reports of sextortion to police in Scotland

Woman using phone - Image credit: Pixabay

Significant rise in reports of sextortion to police in Scotland

Reports of sextortion rose significantly last year, according to figures from Police Scotland.

Between January and August 2020, 283 sextortion crimes were recorded, compared to 196 offences in the same period in 2019, an increase of 44 per cent.

The youngest victim was aged just 10, while the oldest was 85.

The majority of the victims – 182 or 64 per cent – were young people aged 25 and under, and sixty per cent were male.

Over half of the male victims were aged between 13 and 23 years old, while around half of female victims were aged between 10 and 17.

Sextortion is cyber-enabled extortion that involves the threat of sharing sexual information, images or video clips to coerce people into giving money or further images. 

It is an offence whether the images actually exist or not.

Footage or images that had been obtained through webcam recording or provided by the victim themselves were used as leverage in 83 per cent of the reported incidents.

Two thirds of the extortions demanded money from the victim to avoid disclosure of sexual images or footage they had unwittingly provided to criminals.

Among children aged 10 to 15 years most extortion demands were for further images or videos.

However, a number included webcam extortions for money or threats of violence.

In the other age brackets, money was the main reason for targeting victims.

Girls and young women aged under 18 were most vulnerable to being targeted for images, while young men in their late teens or early twenties were the most susceptible to being targeted for money.

Across all age groups 85 per cent of those targeted to obtain money were male, while 94 per cent of the those targeted to obtain images or video were female.

Assistant Chief Constable Pat Campbell said: “Becoming a victim of extortion is devastating particularly if the extortion involves the threat of sexual exposure.

“Social media has become the default for communicating and meeting people during lockdown, for both adults and children.

“Criminals are targeting people online and tapping into vulnerabilities.

“It is distressing to realise that actions you thought were private are now a source of threat.

“It is a particularly worrying trend that we are now seeing increasing numbers of children being targeted and threatened in this way.

“Criminals don’t care about the hurt or damage they cause, they only care about money.

“And once they identify a victim it is likely their demands will continue.

“We can’t underestimate how important online apps and platforms have been for people during lockdown but sometimes the people you meet online are not who they say they are.

“We want people to be aware of the risks and stay safe online.

“If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sextortion please contact the police.

“Every report will be treated seriously, sensitively and you will be treated with respect.”

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