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Three cases of ‘sextortion' are reported to PSNI every week

Police said they are investigating reports of an online blackmail scam that has targeted several people in the north
Brendan Hughes

THE PSNI is receiving around three reports every week of people being targeted by blackmailers in online sex scams.

A total of 63 reports of internet blackmail scams have been made to police so far this year up until last week.

The scale of the problem has emerged as officers investigate the targeting of an Ulster GAA star.

It is understood the senior player was duped into performing a sex act online and a recording was used by scammers to demand money.

When he did not pay up the blackmailers posted the footage on social media.

The GAA star, aged in his thirties, alluded to the ordeal in a post on Twitter earlier this week.

He wrote that he was going through a very difficult time and apologised for any upset caused.

Police confirmed they are investigating reports of an online blackmail scam that has targeted several people in Northern Ireland.

"While we cannot comment on individual cases, we would remind people to exercise care online, particularly when using social media," a spokesman said.

"We all deserve to be able to use the internet to learn, explore and connect with each other. But all of us need to be aware of the risks involved in doing so, especially on social media."

It is understood the Gaelic Players Association, which provides a round-the-clock confidential counselling service, is aware of the matter.

However, a spokesman for the Dublin-based support service declined to comment.

Earlier this year the PSNI issued a warning after receiving numerous local reports of 'cyber blackmail'.

Police said victims were told to transfer money to an account based in west Africa and some agreed.

On Friday, online safety expert Jim Gamble called for more to be done to raise awareness of internet 'sextortion' and how to address the problem.

He said that in many cases the scammers seem to be based in the Philippines, Ivory Coast or Nigeria.

The former chief executive of the Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (Ceop) said the blackmailers tend to target men online who are older and most likely married.

"They will target men who are perhaps visiting dating sites, but they will also target them through their Facebook profiles," he said.

"I have looked at one case recently where an individual offender had targeted over 100 people in this type of scam."

Mr Gamble urged victims to contact police, and warned relatives to be aware that they could be so affected that they are at risk of self-harm or suicide.

"It is a time to reassure an individual who is in a terrible place that they are are of value, that we all make mistakes," he said.

"You're in a desperate quagmire where you're a victim but there's this degree of shame, where you feel you have breached your own moral code."

:: Visit getsafeonline.org for information and advice on how to stay safe on the internet

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