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People warned not to fall for 'sextortion' after dozens of scams reported to PSNI

Parents have been encouraged to check what websites their children are accessing.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Farknot Architect

PEOPLE IN NORTHERN Ireland have been warned not to be duped by fraudsters attempting to get money after more than three dozen reports of scams were made to the PSNI in recent days.

Between Thursday and yesterday morning, over 40 reports were made to police about cyber criminals threatening individuals across Northern Ireland.

The majority of these attempts have been through what’s known as sextortion scams where residents in counties Antrim, Down, Tyrone and Derry are among those targeted, all via email.

Most of the reports made to police are the same, and involve emails sent to recipients.

People are told if they don’t pay £2,000 (about €2,300), x-rated or compromising photos of them will be sent to their families, or that images or footage of them accessing pornographic websites will be released.

Others are phishing emails where scammers tell the recipient they have their password in an attempt to convince them they’re a genuine threat.

They claim they have access to indecent images of the person and will release them publicly unless they pay £2,000.

Young people 

PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said most people who have been contacted by fraudsters haven’t fallen for the scams.

He said scammers are “ruthless, unscrupulous individuals who don’t care about the impact of their actions on victims, which can sometimes can be life-changing and which often has a significant impact” and only care about “getting money from their victims”. 

Walls also said that, as young people are spending more time at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, parents should take extra care to keep an eye on their child’s online activity and the websites they are accessing.

“It’s really important that parents and guardians know what their loved ones’ online activity is, who their children are engaging with and what sites they are visiting,” Walls said.

“To any young person who may receive or has received one of these emails, please don’t worry. Speak to your parent or guardian or someone you trust and do not reply to the email,” he added.

A statement from the PSNI said a small number of the recent scams reported have been of more traditional – where scammers seek a person’s bank details to issue a non-existent refund, for example. 

“Never ever give out any personal or financial information to an unverified source via email or over the phone.

“Only ever give that type of sensitive information to a verified source, and I would urge people who receive any of these types of email not to interact or reply to the scammers, but to forward details on to Action Fraud and contact us,” Wall said.

Action Fraud can be contacted via this website or by calling 0300 123 2040. Police can be contacted on the non-emergency number 101.

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Órla Ryan

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