Police issue sextortion warning after teen conned out of £800
PUBLISHED: 00:01 19 March 2018
Police have issued a warning about a ‘sinister crime’ after a Somerset teenager was conned out of £800.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has published advice after a 16-year-old boy fell victim to ‘sextortion’, which saw him unknowingly recorded doing ‘explicit things’ before being blackmailed.
Jacob, who has had his name changed to protect his identity, said: “In lessons at school sometimes it just hits me and I go red and start sweating because I keep replaying it. It follows me all the time, wondering if the video has been released.”
The teenager was alone in his bedroom over the school Christmas holidays when he decided to go on a website which allows chatting with strangers over webcam.
He came across a girl who lured him into performing an explicit act on camera before asking for his contact details, seemingly to chat again in future.
Jacob obliged, but was soon plunged into a horrible situation which has left a deep psychological impact.
He received a message containing a video which was recorded through his webcam, and a call from a man threatening to distribute the footage followed.
Jacob said: “The guy was so aggressive on the phone. He said he was a pro hacker. He sent me a list of all my Facebook friends and said ‘I will ruin your life’.
“My heart was beating out of my chest. I was shaking. I remember looking at myself in my bedroom mirror thinking ‘what have I done, what have I done?
“I went into panic mode and kept thinking about the worst case scenario – all my friends and family and people at school seeing the video and looking at me differently. I just wanted to stop it.
“I didn’t care about the money, all I could think about was trying to prevent that video getting out. I could earn the money back but I didn’t think I could get my reputation back as easily.
“You hear about this stuff happening but there’s nothing that can prepare you for it. It felt like he was in total control.”
Jacob created an account on a money transferring service and immediately paid the man £800, before telling his sister of what happened.
“I thought, no matter what happens, I’m going to have to tell my family about this at some point, so I may as well tell them now,” said the 16-year-old.
Jacob’s sister called the police on 101 as well as calling their parents and asking them to come home immediately.
His mum said: “I just walked in and gave him a big hug. We did everything we could – closing down his social media accounts, changing his phone number, and we gave him a stern talking to.
“But he’s suffered enough for his mistake and he’s now working hard to earn that money back.”
More than 2,000 instances of sextortion have been reported to police across the UK in the past two days, and Avon and Somerset believes many cases go unreported.
Joanne Bocko, police cyber protect officer, said: “What happened to Jacob is called sextortion. It’s where someone uses a sexually explicit image or video of their victim as leverage to blackmail them and to make demands.
“This kind of criminal preys on people’s vulnerabilities. It’s a very cruel crime which can ruin people’s lives. That’s why for us, protection and the welfare of the victim is paramount.
“To prevent this kind of thing happening in the first place, we’d advise not going on webcam with a stranger or giving personal details to someone you don’t know.
“While we see victims of all ages and genders, in many cases reported to us the victims are men aged 18-29. So if you have relatives or friends in this age group, why not tell them about Jacob’s story and warn them of the dangers?”