SEX chat blackmailers have been targeting Black Country men with threats to post embarrassing images online.
West Midlands Police is investigating eight incident where victims, including people from the Dudley area, have been lured into video chats and then threatened with recordings of the encounters being made public unless they pay thousands of pounds.
Officers are now warning people to be wary of getting into situations where they could become the crooks’ next victim.
Detective constable Stefan Ashton, from West Midlands Police CID, said: “In most of the cases the videos have not actually been distributed but it’s nevertheless been an absolutely horrendous ordeal for the people involved, who are understandably very worried about the consequences of such images and videos being posted online.
"The damage in the cases where the footage was shared with the victims’ Facebook friends cannot be underestimated − they are clearly devastated. The blackmailers are calculated and malicious and have complete disregard for the people they’re exploiting."
Speaking anonymously one victim said blackmailers almost ruined his life by emailing the link to his girlfriend and threatening to send it to his daughter unless he paid US$5,000.
The messages stopped after he told cops but he lives in fear of the footage being posted online again in the future.
Crooks usually target their victims by adding them as a friend on social media sites or by befriending them in internet chat rooms.
They will then flirt and lure them into video conversations, usually on Skype or FaceTime, during which both parties engage in sexual acts which the blackmailers record.
Later the victim will receive a message demanding cash, usually with a screen grab of a scene from the video.
Cops say the best way to avoid becoming a victim is not to take part in explicit video chats.
For advice on how to stay safe online, visit www.getsafeonline.org.