Police in the United Kingdom warn of increased cases of “sextortion” as Covid-19 has social gatherings and the dating scene deviating from bar meet ups to online dating apps. Thames Valley Police have advised locals to “not do anything silly “ online, highlighting concerns on sharing intimate footage or even allowing another party to have an opportunity to take photos or footage of such without one’s permission or knowledge.

While dating is hard enough for most people pre-pandemic, the most feasible option to make connections is online by way of social media or dating apps. The likes of Tinder, Bumble, and even the new Quarantine Together have reported a significant spike in sign up numbers .

Sextortion is nothing new in the virtual world. The internet along with the accessibility to the newest gadget technologies has brought on a lucrative playground for people trying to extort money from clueless victims using various forms of trickery.

While certain apps can only go so far, what one does after breaking through the small talk is what could ring in trouble if one proceeds without caution. 

Recent cases documented by the Thames Valley police tell of many sextortion tales where victims end up getting scammed even after what may have seemed to have started as an innocent chat. 

One in particular was that of a young man who got hit up by a woman on Facebook looking to video chat. On their first video call, the woman asked him to show off his body. Although nothing else ensued from that, their second video chat had the man providing intimate footage for her to enjoy. Unaware of what was going on, the woman had covertly recorded his performance. She then told the man that she had recorded these sessions and demanded £200 ($270) else she would send the videos to all his family and friends whose accounts have been made available to her through their Facebook connection.

The man refused, and in the following two hours, he received over 100 demands for payment. He eventually blocked her and deactivated all of his accounts before contacting law enforcement. 

ZDNet lists similar forms of sextortion such as phishing emails and revenge porn where messages claim to have access to your photos and video cam footages. Victims receive threats to release intimate photos or videos  and even provide passwords acquired from data breach to seem more legitmate.

Oxford Mail reports, the National Crime Agency urged online users: 

"Do not panic, do not pay, stop and notify the police."

They  point out that there is no guarantee that a scammer will discard such materials after getting paid and may simply demand more at any time. 

Digital Privacy Expert at ProPrivacy. Ray Walsh said:

"Anybody who is threatened with this type of blackmail by an online contact is advised to contact the police and should refuse to send the scammer any money.”

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