Online “sextortion” crimes have more than doubled this year compared to 2015, with over 900 recorded cases reported in Britain since last year.
The crime, in which criminals masquerading as potential partners online entice victims into performing sexual acts on camera before blackmailing them with the recorded act, is also predicted to be “far bigger” than reported numbers, with many victims allegedly too ashamed to come forward.
According to the Telegraph, some of the youngest recorded victims are just 14-years-old, with the oldest into their 80s. The majority, however, are between the ages of 18 and 24, with 90% of the victims recorded as male.
“There is huge under-reporting of these kinds of offences, often because victims feel ashamed or embarrassed, but of course criminals are relying on that reaction in order to succeed,” explained the head of operations for NCA’s Anti-Kidnap and Extortion Unit, Roy Sinclair. “This is still a relatively new and emerging type of crime. However the trend is clear. Cases of webcam blackmail – or sextortion – are going up dramatically. As recently as 2012 we were only getting a handful of reports, now we’re getting hundreds.”
The crime has reportedly provoked numerous suicides from young men who have not been able to pay the ransom.
“This is a really worrying, emerging new threat,” declared Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, who leads the National Police Chiefs’ Council on adult sex offences. “As a result to this crime we’ve already had four young men in the UK kill themselves because they saw no way out of the situation they had got themselves into.”
“This kind of offence is being perpetrated by organised crime and we will take it seriously,” he concluded.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that Anton Martynenko, a sextortion crime kingpin who victimized “at least” 155 young boys, had been sentenced to 38 years in prison for his crimes, which included child pornography charges.
“We all can now be given freedom from this,” said one victim in court.
Two of Martynenko’s victims killed themselves as a result of his extortion scheme before he was arrested.