UK & World News
Philippines: Online 'Sextortion' Plot Smashed
An online sexual extortion plot that is thought to have led to the suicide of a British teenager has been broken by authorities in the Philippines.
Police have arrested 58 people in the archipelago for their involvement in what they describe as a global internet "sextortion" network.
Victims have been lured into giving sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves by people posing online as attractive, young women.
Alan Purisima, the Philippines' national police chief, said those involved in the plot blackmailed their victims by threatening to upload the photos or videos to the internet.
Some have been forced to hand over thousands of dollars, the authorities said.
Hundreds people have fallen victim to the plot in Britain, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the US in the last three to four years.
DCI Gary Cunningham, from Police Scotland, told a news conference in Manila there was strong evidence the British teenager who killed himself had chatted with somebody from the Philippines.
Three of those arrested were alleged to have targeted Daniel Perry, a 17-year-old mechanic who took his own life by jumping off a bridge in Scotland in July last year after being blackmailed.
Daniel was said to have believed that the person he was speaking to online was a girl from America.
His mother, Nicola Perry, said: "The manner of Daniel's death is every parent's worst nightmare. After being targeted by complete strangers online, he was left so traumatised by his ordeal that he chose to take his own life."
The syndicates involved find their victims using a number of internet platforms, not only social media, such as Facebook, said Mr Cunningham.
Mr Purisima added that the gangs involved often ask their victims to use a webcam.
He added: "After getting acquainted with the victims ... they engage in cybersex, and this will be recorded unknown to the victims.
"These images or information are then used to extort sexual favours or money from the victim with the threat of sharing these (images and information) with others."
He added that some of the "sextortion" groups operate like call centres where operators hire men and women, sitting in rows of computer cubicles, to lure in foreign clients.
They usually ask for £300 ($500) from a victim but there have been demands of up to £8,000 ($15,000), Interpol said.
Sanjay Virmani, director of Interpol's Digital Crime Centre, said: "The scale of this extortion network is massive."
Asif Ahmad, British Ambassador to the Philippines, said: "This is not an issue directly involving the Philippines exclusively.
"Cybercrime is international, and is an international problem, it respects no nationality or borders. We are all potential victims of cybercrime, none of us are immune."
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