Wiltshire Police have seen an increase in sextortion offences involving victims aged under 18.
Sextortion generally involves criminals using fake dating or social media accounts to befriend people online and persuade them to send intimate pictures or videos, or perform sexual acts.
The criminals record or save these and threaten to share the content with friends and family unless a payment is made. There can be both male and female victims.
Between October 2022 and October 2023, Wiltshire Police recorded 153 cases of sextortion involving victims aged under 18, an increase from the 84 recorded in the previous 12-month period.
DC Jason Walsh of the Child Internet Exploitation Team said: " In recent months Wiltshire Police has seen an increase in reports where children have been identified as victims of sextortion.
“This offence can occur across a number of different internet platforms whereby a young person is communicating online with an unknown person who requests they send an indecent image of themselves.
“Once the young person sends the image the conversation changes to demands for money and threats the image will be posted to their social media feed. When the young person realises what has happened it can cause them significant concern and distress.
“If you've been the victim of sextortion please report it to 101 where it will be dealt with sensitively and the appropriate safeguarding can take place."
DS Anthony King said: “It's illegal for anyone to have, share or make sexual images or videos of people under 18.
“Legally this includes personal images or videos made by under 18s and shared with each other (sometimes called 'sexting').
“But it's not always in the public interest to prosecute in these cases. We'll decide whether to take action depending on things like evidence of exploitation or grooming.
“If you’ve been a victim of sextortion we’d like you to remember, whatever has happened is not your fault, even though you might have been told it is.
“Children are often made to feel they are at fault, or that no one will believe them, or that something bad will happen to them or their family, but this is a threat to stop them from telling anyone. You are not to blame.”
Further information can be found at www.wiltshire.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/sexual-offences/sextortion/
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