ON Safer Internet Day, Gardaí in Limerick have reported an increase in reports of online blackmail, involving criminals pressurising people to pay them large sums of money not to release compromising images to their family and friends.
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 some 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,” Sgt Leetch explained.
“Blackmail can be for revenge but it is usually for money,” she said.
Highlighting two recent separate incidents which were 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 persons 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 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. He was advised to shut down all of his online accounts and change his phone number, emails etc.”
In the second incident, which is under investigation by Gardaí at Henry Street Station in Limerick, a man in his forties developed an online sexual relationship with a woman.
“The woman had been recording him and 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.”
“Anyone who finds themselves in this situation should not pay any money. Report the blackmail to Gardaí where you will be treated sensitively and confidentially,” Sgt Leetch advised.