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Police issue guidelines on fighting sextortion

By Becky Kammitsi

Police said on Wednesday there has been an increase in cases of “sextortion” and issued guidelines for the public on how to avoid being victimised.

Sextortion, as the name suggests, is a form of sexual blackmail where someone threatens to share a person’s personal pictures on the internet unless they meet their demands. The demands are usually money or more personal images. People are targeted through dating apps, social media, the webcam or adult porn sites.

The office for combating cybercrime of the police provides specific tips for dealing with the phenomenon and mentions warning signs, protection measures and what to do if someone falls victim.

The warning signs include noticing that the blackmailer’s online profile does not match what they see or hear when talking.

Sextortionists also tend to express strong romantic feelings for the victim almost immediately and quickly suggest a private chat. They can also come up with excuses such as their camera does not work and instead send a nude photo claiming to be them in exchange for one from the victim.

Police advise victims not to panic, not to meet the blackmailer’s demands, and to make a complaint through their website or through the cybercrime office. Most importantly, they said, the victim should not give the blackmailer any money or additional pictures and stop contact.

The password for all social media and online accounts should be changed and security and privacy settings should be checked. Support from a trusted friend, family member or special counseling is vital, the police said.

If they’ve already fallen for the scam, or sent money, it would be helpful to investigators if victims have hung on to any records of their contacts with the blackmailer.

“Everyone can experience blackmail. The victim does not have to feel alone. They’ve done nothing wrong,” the police advisory says.

People can visit the cybercrime unit’s website at  www.cyberalert.cy or the police website www.police.gov.cy to file a complaint. Anyone who feels their physical safety is at risk should called the citizens line 1460 or their local police station.

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