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Online blackmail

What is online blackmail?

Online blackmail is when someone threatens to share private information, images or videos of a person unless something is done for them.

Young people sometimes send nude pictures or videos to flirt, or have fun with people they like online. Often, they believe that they won’t be shared any further and, most of the time, images and videos do stay private.

Unfortunately, there are some people online who may try to trick or pressure young people into sending images or videos of themselves. They might offer jobs, money, gifts or nudes in return. Sometimes, these people have set up a fake profile online, and are pretending to be someone they are not.

Once someone has an image or a video, they may threaten to share it publically, unless the young person does something for them, like send them money or more nude images. Often, these people won’t carry out the threat, but sometimes they do.

When someone makes a threat like this, it is blackmail. Online blackmail is a form of abuse and is a criminal offence.

Spotting warning signs

Here are some things you can look out for that might mean someone wants to blackmail you:

  1. They’re moving too fast. They try to develop a relationship with you very quickly. They might be flirty, tell you they like you very soon, or ask for nude images. Some may even send nude images to you first.
  2. It seems too good to be true. They might say they have an interesting job, like a modelling scout or agent. They might offer you a job or lots of money in exchange for images. These might not be nude images to begin with, but they could start asking for them. If something feels too good to be true, it’s safest to say no, block and report them.
  3. They tell you they’ve hacked your device. Some blackmailers might tell you they’ve got embarrassing images or information about you from your device. They might threaten to share this information unless money is given to them. Most of the time, none of this is true.
  4. They pressure you to do things you’re not comfortable with. They may repeatedly ask you to do sexual things you don’t feel comfortable with. They might even say nasty things like telling you you’re boring if you don’t do what they ask. It’s never ok for someone to ask you to do things you don’t want to and there are places you can get help.

Where to get help

If someone is threatening you online, including demanding images or money from you, it’s safest not to respond, and to block and report them.

If you’ve been blackmailed or sexually abused online report it to CEOP. If you’ve reached the age of 18, it’s best to tell someone you trust what has happened, and report this crime to the police.

If someone has shared an image or video of you online without your consent and you’re under 18Report Remove from Childline and the Internet Watch Foundation can help to take it down from the internet.

Feeling scared, embarrassed or anxious about what has happened is normal. Remember, it is never your fault if you are blackmailed online and it can happen to anyone. Talking about it can really help. A trusted adult, like a teacher, social worker or family member will listen, and support you. Childline and The Mix and can also support you confidentially.

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If you are under 18, report online sexual abuse to one of our Child Protection Advisors at the CEOP Safety Centre.

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If you're over 18, call 101 to speak to your local police. 

In an emergency

If you're ever in immediate harm or danger: 

  • Call the police on 999 straight away
  • Tell an adult you trust who will be able to support you through a difficult time

Talk to someone

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Free, confidential support online and over the phone for young people under 19.

www.childline.org.uk

Call 0800 1111

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The Mix is a charity that provides free information and support for under 25s.

www.themix.org.uk

Use their crisis messenger by texting THEMIX to 85258.

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