GARDAÍ in Limerick have warned of an increase in reports of online-blackmail, involving criminals pressurising people to pay large sums of money not to release compromising photos or videos.
Limerick Garda Crime Prevention Officer Sergeant Ber Leetch said that, while it may sound obvious, people should not provide anyone with the power to blackmail them.
“Online blackmail happens when you share compromising information or images with somebody you thought you could trust but the relationship changes and now they are threatening to share these images with others.
“Blackmail can be for revenge but it is usually for money,” she explained.
Highlighting two recent incidents reported to Limerick Gardaí of “people having shared compromising images with complete strangers online”, Sgt Leetch warned, “if you post an image online, you no longer have control over that image”.
“The people being blackmailed in these cases were living in Limerick, and the blackmail happened in the past two weeks.
“One young man in his early 20s, in the Mayorstone area of Limerick, was contacted through social media with a message that threatened to send a compromising video of him to all of his contacts if he did not pay €1,000.
“The young man was shown the video. He panicked and paid the money but it did not stop there. The demands for more cash increased until he eventually contacted Gardaí who advised him to shut down all of his online accounts and change his phone number, and email address”.
In the second incident, which is being investigated by Gardaí at Henry Street Station, a man in his forties developed an online sexual relationship with a woman.
“The woman had been recording him and she threatened to share these videos on Facebook if he did not pay over money. The man refused to pay but he had to shut down all of his online accounts and change his contact details.”
Sergeant Leetch advised anyone caught up in similar episodes, “do not pay any money. Report the blackmail to Gardaí who will treat you sensitively and confidentially”.