Teenager Gary was blackmailed after exposing himself online.
Now Gary – not his real name – has shared his story as the police urge victims to come forward.
I would not be here today if I had not spoken to anyoneWebcam blackmail victim
Criminal gangs operating from three main hubs are targeting mainly young men in the blackmail scam.
Gary, from Hampshire and in his late teens, said: ‘I was working night shifts on my own.
‘This meant I could not meet up with friends and had no social life.
‘I was lonely so I tried going online to meet people.
‘I would go online once an evening over the course of a few months.
‘I went on different dating websites, wanting to get to know people on there. This made me happier.
‘I felt better. One of the people I’d been talking to suggested I go onto Skype.
‘I’d been talking to them for a while so I thought why not? They seemed persistent, which in hindsight was the first warning sign. At the time I was going with it.
‘I was receiving quite a few messages, once a day or twice a day.
‘She’d asked me for my Facebook profile and picture.
‘The conversations had lasted a week or two, more than previous ones.
‘It seemed normal then this woman started talking intimately.
‘She invited me onto Skype where she looked similar to her profile picture.
‘She was half way across the room. It lasted for around 30 to 45 minutes, all on the phone.
‘She said ‘show me a bit more, and show me your face’.
‘Then the messages came up – “pay £500 or this is going all over Facebook. I want £500” then she started listing my friends’ details.
‘I said I could not afford £500, she said £200 was the lowest.
‘I said I could only pay £50. I offered to go to the bank but went to the police instead.
‘I was trembling throughout the whole thing, shaking and thinking “what’s going to happen?” This will ruin my life and did not know what to do.
‘If this video is released onto Facebook, what would I do? What’s going to happen with my job? What will my friends think? I thought about suicide, it would have been too embarrassing.
‘I would not have been able to face anyone.
‘But I went to the police, and kept her talking by saying I was at the bank.
‘Messages came through abusing me and saying “I will keep doing it”.
‘The police officers handled it well.
‘They stopped and helped me through it. They made me feel better.
‘I needed to talk to someone. Since then I’ve tried to put it to the back of my mind, and I’ve moved on with my life. ‘There is always life afterwards.
‘But I would not be here today if I had not spoken to anyone.’