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Sextortion (webcam blackmail) 

Many people use webcams for flirting and cybersex - but sometimes people you meet online aren't who they say they are.

Sextortion - what it is, how to protect yourself and what to do if you're a victim 

What is sextortion

Many people use webcams for flirting and cybersex - but sometimes people you meet online aren't who they say they are.

Criminals might befriend victims online by using a fake identity and then persuade them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam, often by using an attractive woman to entice the victim to participate. These women may have been coerced into these actions using financial incentives or threats.

These webcam videos are recorded by the criminals who then threaten to share the images with the victims’ friends and family. This can make the victims feel extremely ashamed and embarrassed and, tragically, here in the UK at least four young men have taken their own lives after being targeted in this way.

Both men and women can be victims of this crime, either by being blackmailed or by being coerced into carrying out sexual acts.

The best way to stop yourself from becoming a victim is to be very careful about who you befriend with online, especially if you’re considering sharing anything intimate with them.

Has this happened to you?

Don’t Panic: The first big step is to recognise you are the ‘victim’ in this and that you may require support to help you through what has happened.

Don’t pay: The choice to pay is yours but experience shows where victims have paid then there is no guarantee that offenders will not still post the recording
and are in fact more likely to come back with further demands.

Don’t keep communicating: By replying to these threats it indicates to the criminals that you are someone who may be persuaded to pay their ransom.

Do consider getting support: You can contact your local Police force (101) to report what has happened to you. This is particularly important if you are struggling to cope with the issue. If you are under 18 consider speaking to a trusted adult and additional support is also available via Child Exploitation Online Protection. (CEOP)

Who is behind this crime

We have evidence that organised crime groups – mostly based overseas ­- are behind this crime. For them it's a low risk way to make money and they can reach many victims easily online. Victims are often worried about reporting these offences to the police because they are embarrassed.

Further help and support

If this has happened to you and you're under 18 please talk to an adult that you trust. It may feel like there is no way out, but there are professionals who can help you. You can also get help from:


Latest news on this threat

Gareth Davis

A man from Runcorn has been given a life sentence of 27 years after he admitted to raping and sexually assaulting a baby.

Police special constable sentenced for online child sexual abuse offences

A man from Wakefield has been given a two-year suspended sentence for posting online messages fantasising about abusing children and possessing thousands of child sexual abuse images.

NCA logo

A legal requirement for UK companies to report child sexual abuse content on their platforms to the National Crime Agency was announced as part of the Government’s Online Safety Bill.