UK Raises Alarm Over Global Sextortion Scams Doubles


Apr 29, 2024

An unprecedented alert has been issued to British teachers, warning of a surge in sextortion scams targeting teenagers. The National Crime Agency (NCA) issued the warning on Monday, highlighting the devastating impact of these scams on young people who are duped into sharing intimate photos.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where criminals threaten to release nude or semi-nude photos of someone unless they pay a ransom. The number of global cases reported to the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children has doubled from 10,731 in 2022 to 26,718 in 2023, with a disproportionate number of victims being boys aged between 14 and 18.

Gangs based in West Africa and South-East Asia are targeting young people in English-speaking countries, including the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. They often pose as another young person on social media, then move to encrypted messaging apps and encourage victims to share intimate images.

The NCA’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) education team has issued guidance to teachers on spotting the signs of sextortion, supporting young people, and encouraging them to seek help. The guidance also includes advice for parents and carers on how to talk to children about sextortion and how to support them if they become a victim.

James Babbage, NCA Director-General for Threats, emphasized that sextortion causes immense stress and anguish, and in some cases, has led to young people taking their own lives. He stressed that victims are not to blame and that help and support are available.

Marie Smith, NCA Head of CEOP Education, noted that falling prey to these scams has a devastating impact on children’s lives and their families. She described the criminals as “extremely malicious” and “callous,” and emphasized the need for urgent action to protect young people.

Security Minister Tom Tugendhat warned that sextortion destroys lives and is often driven by highly sophisticated organized crime groups who exploit vulnerable people for profit. He urged technology companies to take responsibility for the safety of their users and implement stronger safeguards on their platforms. He also encouraged parents to talk to their children about their social media use and to be aware of the risks, even on sites that may seem safe.

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