Police warn locals to be on alert as sinister e-mail 'sextortion' scam re-emerges

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

A senior police officer is appealing to people in Ballymena and Antrim not to be duped by fraudsters attempting to swindle them after more than three dozen reports of scams in recent days.

Between Thursday, April 16 and Saturday April 18 there had been more that 40 reports to PSNI of cyb

er criminals threatening individuals across Northern Ireland. The majority of these attempts have been through what's known as sextortion scams where residents in counties Antrim, Down, Tyrone and Derry/Londonderry are among those targeted, all via email.

Most of the reports made to police are the same, and involve emails sent to recipients. They are told if they don't pay £2,000 they're threatened that X-rated or compromising photos of them will be sent to their families, or that images/footage of them accessing pornographic websites will be released.

Others are phishing emails where scammers tell the recipient they have their password in an attempt to convince them they're a genuine threat. They claim they have access to indecent images of the person and will release them publicly unless they pay the £2,000.

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls says scammers will stop at nothing to dupe people, even during the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Chief Superintendent Walls said: "Thankfully, in relation to the reports we have received in the last few days, people appear to be aware of the fraudsters and it appears they haven't fallen for their scams.

"Scammers are ruthless, unscrupulous individuals who don't care about the impact of their actions on victims, which can sometimes can be life changing and which often has a significant impact. All scammers care about is getting money from their victims.”

Chief Superintendent Walls said now that young people are spending more time at home, parents should take extra care to keep an eye on their child's online activity and what sites they are accessing.

Chief Superintendent Walls said: “It's really important that parents and guardians know what their loved ones' online activity is, who their children are engaging with and what sites they are visiting. It's also important people have a conversation with their loved ones, and with each other, so they are aware of the extraordinary lengths scammers will go to and the abhorrent tactics they will employ.

“And, to any young person who may receive or has received one of these emails, please don't worry. Speak to your parent/guardian or someone you trust and do not reply to the email."

A small number of the recent scams reported have been of the more traditional type, where scammers have claimed to be calling from a bank and have asked people for their bank details, or where someone has been told they are due a refund after their MoT was cancelled and they need their bank details to issue the refund. One report was about workmen taking money from a householder for work yet to be completed.

Chief Superintendent Walls said: “Never ever give out any personal or financial information to an unverified source via email or over the phone.

“Only ever give that type of sensitive information to a verified source, and I would urge people who receive any of these types of email not to interact or reply to the scammers, but to forward details on to Action Fraud and contact us.

“People who receive such an email where the scammers claim to have their password should change their passwords as soon as possible. Please, do all you can to stop scammers taking your money.

“I would urge people to be aware of cold callers and people claiming to carry out work on their house for a price, which will often be too good to be true. Be on your guard and do what you can to protect yourself financially.”

Action Fraud can be contacted via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 123 2040. Police cn be contacted on the non-emergency number 101.

For further advice and information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni

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