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'I was shaking. I felt so lost and miserable': Sextortion victim on how online con made his life hell

A new TG4 documentary is examining the concept of online shaming.

Sextortion victim Carl O'Reilly
Sextortion victim Carl O'Reilly
Image: TG4

A VICTIM OF online sextortion has described how a seemingly normal meeting with someone online turned his life upside down and nearly forced him to move country.

A new documentary to be broadcast on TG4 at 9.30pm tonight explores how online shaming is becoming more commonplace and how unsuspecting people are being extorted out of money. 

One of the ways this is happening is through dating sites. One victim of it, Carl O’Reilly, tells presenter Ciara Ní É that within seconds of sending a video to who he thought was a woman, he received a WhatsApp threatening to send the video to his friends, family and employer unless he handed over money. 

Speaking on the documentary, O’Reilly said: “I was on an online dating site and we started chatting for a bit. Then she asked for my number and we went to another messaging service. She said then that she wants to see me on video to prove who I say I am.

“She kinda asked to see certain things – it was quick, short and then all of a sudden I get a WhatsApp from same person and screenshots of my ex, my family and my friends and then they said they were going to send this video to everyone I know. 

They also got my LinkedIn details with work and they were asking for €300. And you’re terrified, you feel totally lost and out of control and you’ll do anything to make this go away.

“They had my phone number and that’s how they got my Facebook details. I went online to see what other people have done in these situations. All I saw was horror stories, people losing thousands and I was shaking – I felt so lost and miserable.”

O’Reilly thought he had to leave his job and leave the country in the aftermath of what happened. He paid the €300 straight up but just hours later the scammers had come back for more. He knew this couldn’t continue. 

“I needed support. I rang my friends – I didn’t want to tell them but they were all really, really good. People are terrified of this coming out. If people were openly talking about it then they’d have no market.”

Facebook request

One man who was nearly caught out by the scam is Gary Stevens from Cork. His run-in with the fraudsters began with a simple Facebook friend request. But his interaction was slightly different. He had actually met the woman who would later try to extort money from him. 

He explained that when he accepted her request, she told him she added him by accident but said she was up to getting to know him. Stevens said he didn’t mind and the couple eventually met up and spent the day together. 

But a month later, he got a video call from her and that’s when things got strange. 

“About a month later I got a video call coming through from my phone but I said ‘I’ll message you later – I’m busy’. 

“So I went up and had a shower. I came down and I was in a towel, like wrapped around my waist.

“My phone was on the bed and it was calling so I answered and I could see her – she was naked basically and started doing things to herself and she was asking me to pan down the camera on me and I said ‘no I’m not into that’ – about 10 seconds later she stopped.”

Moments later the woman contacted Stevens and threatened to send the video to everyone in his Facebook friends. She threatened to send it to his son. Instead of giving in to the demands for money, he posted on his Facebook wall that if anyone receives a video of him that they should not open it. 

Sextortion is just one aspect of online shaming dealt with in the documentary, Tabú-Náire.

Presenter Ciara Ní É also meets with Cáit from Cork who had her personal images stolen from her Facebook page and uploaded to a porn website. She discovered her photos received over 3 million hits.


In another example, Mary O’Donnell, a beautician from Tralee, appeared on The Today Show. A video of the clip went viral and received over a million views online after she had a mishap on live television while applying eyeliner to a model. The online abuse and shame got out of control and she now calls the incident ‘liner-gate’.

She explained that: “There was no part of my being that hadn’t been scrutinised… it was really attacking someone’s character from people who didn’t even know me.”

‘Siobhán’ talks to Ciara about the anxiety she experienced when she discovered that her ex-boyfriend uploaded an intimate video of them to a porn website.

And Jackie Fox shares her heart-breaking story of her daughter, Nicole, who was the victim of online bullying. In January of this year, Nicole took her own life. Now Jackie is campaigning to bring in Coco’s Law in memory of her daughter as she wants the law to be changed to make harassment online an offence.

Tabú: Náire airs this evening at 9.30pm on TG4 

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