DANGER: Is that 'hot babe' on Skype a sextortionist?

Give me some money for my wrinkly, or your winky goes online

North Yorkshire police have issued a general warning after three men in the York area fell victim to sextortionists.

Someone posing as a woman called Cathy Wong befriended each of the victims on Facebook before asking them to Skype her. During the online chat session, she enticed each of them into performing an indecent act, which was recorded on video.

She then proceeded to ask the men, who are all students, to send £3,000 via money transfer for her sick grandmother.

All three refused, at which point things turned nasty with threats to upload the embarrassing videos to YouTube unless the victims comply with extortionate demands.

The men are not known to each other and police, who are working a theory that a gang might be involved, are concerned that there may be other victims.

Police are urging internet users, particularly students, to be on their guard and to contact them if they believe they have been targeted.

Detective Sergeant Rebecca Dyer of York CID said: "This scam is causing considerable distress to the victims and I urge anyone who uses any kind of social networking site to be very wary of what they are getting into.

"I am concerned that there are other victims of this scam who are too embarrassed to come forward about what has happened. I urge them to please get in touch with the police. Your information will be dealt with in the strictest confidence and with sensitivity. Please do not suffer in silence," he added.

As noted on Sophos's Naked Security blog, sextortion is often under-reported due to a level of embarrassment that can lead to horrible consequences for some victims. In isolated cases victims have become so desperate as to take their own lives. Both men and women are targeted.

Sextortion refers to sexual blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favours and/or money from the victim. It's the stock-in-trade of organised crime groups operating out of the Philippines, in particular, say researchers.

Groups are known to operate on an almost industrial scale from call centre-style offices, with cyber-blackmail agents provided with training and offered bonus incentives such as holidays, cash or mobile phones for reaching their financial targets, Interpol reports.

Despite a number of international police busts, there's no good reason to think the lucrative scam will die out any time soon.

Victims are able to report crimes anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. ®

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