A LOCAL police chief has issued a warning to youngsters after a 12-year-old girl was caught up in a sextortion scam.

The girl was chatting to someone she thought was a young boy on Snapchat having accepted a friend request from the user on the app.

They exchanged messages over a few days before the person asked for images of the girl.

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She sent one before sending more intimate images of herself without her face in it.

The sender asked for more pictures but the girl refused.

The Snapchat user then became threatening and the girl blocked the person on the app.

Jeffrey Pick, Police, Community Engagement & Resilience Officer for Windsor & Maidenhead, said: “This whole episode has been very stressful for the family.

“As I have said so often – please do not say, write, text, film, video, photograph, email anything online that you would not be happy for your parents, friends, relatives, neighbours, work colleagues, your boss or anyone in your personal address book to see!

“Once you press send, it is totally out of your control and you have no idea where it could end up.”

What is sextortion?

According to Lancashire Police, sextortion is “a form of blackmail where, usually, victims are lured into performing sexual acts in front of their web-cam, then unbeknown to them, their acts are recorded by criminals.

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“These criminals then attempt to extort the victim, usually for money by threatening to reveal the intimate images unless their demands are met.

“Victims are commonly targeted through dating apps, social media, webcams or adult pornography sites.

“While sextortion can be committed by individuals, organised crime gangs are commonly behind it.”

Is it common?

According to Thames Valley Police, 16 local sextortion cases were reported to the force from January to March 2021.

In February, Ascot police officers sent out a warning after a woman was scammed into sending a fraudster money following explicit calls online.

They had met on a dating site, too.

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She was left “devastated and distraught” after being coerced into paying the man.

What should I do if I am a victim of sextortion?

Lancashire Police, who have a comprehensive section on sextortion on their website, have advice for dealing with this kind of blackmail.

They say:

  • You should not panic -- instead, call the police on 101 and officers will deal with your case in ‘absolute confidence’
  • You should not keep communicating with the scammer -- instead, suspend social media accounts instead of deleting them and take screengrabs of all messages.
  • You should not pay the scammer, as this may make the fraudster demand more money going forward