What Is Sextortion? The Terrifying Dating App Scam Is On The Rise

There are warning signs to look out for.
Police have issued a warning about the scam
Malte Mueller via Getty Images
Police have issued a warning about the scam

Police have had to issue a warning over ‘sextortion’ after it was announced that one area of the country has seen a 153% rise in incidents of the scam.

In 2020, 53 incidents were reported to Durham Constabulary, compared with 134 in 2021 – an increase of 153%.

Sextortion is a form of sexual blackmail where someone threatens to share a person’s nude photographs on the internet or with their friends and family unless they meet their demands.

According to one relationship expert, the scam is taking place more and more over popular dating apps – the scammer will join a dating app and start forming a connection with another user.

Over time, they’ll build their trust by expressing strong romantic feelings and once they feel the time is right and the victim trusts them, they’ll send a nude photograph claiming it to be them in exchange for one from the victim, or request a video of them performing a sex act.

The scammer then uses these images or videos to blackmail the victim for money.

With the scam on the rise, Pippa Murphy, sex and relationships expert at condoms.uk, has shared the action you must take if you find yourself caught up in a sextortion case.

Never, ever blame yourself – sextortion is a crime

If you discover that your nudes have been shared, you may blame yourself for sharing the nude in the first place, however, you should never do this. Sextortion is a criminal offence.

Find out where your photos have been shared

Firstly, you need to uncover whether your image has been shared on the internet and if so, to what extent. Whilst this may seem scary as you may not get the answer you hoped for, it’s essential to do this as soon as possible. As once it’s on one site, it may automatically end up on multiple websites which makes it harder to get rid of. The easiest way to see if your nude image has been shared online is to Reverse Image Search it on Google.

Get what you can taken down ASAP

Whilst the process differs depending on where the photo is hosted, here is how you can get some images removed. If your image has been shared on:

Collect as much evidence and report it to the police

As it’s a criminal offence, you can report this to the police by calling the non-emergency number 101. If the perpetrator of the crime is overseas there may be limited things the police can do however reporting this will help the police learn more and, therefore, prevent future victims.

To help build your case with the police, try to collect as much evidence as possible, including screenshots of the messages where the blackmail threats were made, bank details they shared with you and any other relevant communication that was made both on the dating app or outside of the dating app.

Never negotiate with the blackmailers

Whatever you do, never pay money, or meet the blackmailer’s demands as the more you engage with them, the more they’ll threaten you and expect more money. The amount will never be enough, and they’ll just keep doing it. Instead, stop all communication and report them. Often, they will lose interest and move on to their next victim.

If you need help, ring this helpline

The UK Government has recently increased funding for the Revenge Porn Helpline (0345 6000 459). The helpline is a place for people to report being a victim, but also a source of support which helps take images down.