Online blackmail

When it comes to networking for employment, or exploring social relationships, there are a range of apps and platforms out there to help you connect and meet new people.

Some young people use apps and platforms to explore romantic relationships and describe digital flirting as an easy and fun way to get to know someone, or a way to start a relationship. As part of this, they may send nude pictures or videos to people they like or are getting to know online. Often, nude image sharing is done with the belief that the images will not be shared any further. Unfortunately, there are some people online that don’t intend on keeping these images private.

Some people may try to trick or pressure young people into sharing images or videos with them through the promise of privacy or the offer of jobs, money, gifts, or nudes in return. Once they have these images, they may threaten to share them publicly unless something is done for them, and they may ask for money or more sexual content.

When someone threatens to share private information about a person (including images and videos) unless something is done for them, this is blackmail. Blackmail is a criminal offence.

Here are some warning signs to look out for, especially when talking to new people online:

  • Moving quickly  

    They may try to develop a friendship very quickly. They could be flirtatious, express romantic feelings quickly, or ask for nude images. Some may even send nude images first.

  • Too good to be true?

    They could say that they work for a recruitment or scouting agency and want to help, but images must be shared with them first. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

  • Money for pics

    They may offer and send money for images. These may not be nudes to begin with, but they may start to ask for nude images. It is never a good idea to share intimate images in return for money online.

  • Catfish?

    Some criminals use fake profile photos, and can even create fake video chats and live streams by using other people’s images and content.. Be wary of new online friends that try to have sexual conversations with you, especially if they ask for nude images/videos.

  • ‘You’ve been hacked’

    Some blackmailers falsely claim that they have obtained embarrassing images or information by hacking someone’s  device. They threaten to share this information unless money is given to them.

  • They pressure you to do things you’re not comfortable with

    It’s not ok for someone to ask you to do sexual things you’re not comfortable with. Get help from CEOP if you’re being pressured or blackmailed to send more images – whatever the situation, it is not your fault.

  • They say nasty things, or threaten you

    Even if they’re nice most of the time, it’s never ok for someone to say nasty things to you or make threats . If this is happening to you, read the advice below.

What if someone has or is trying to pressure or threaten you online?

Online abuse can happen to anyone. If you have been blackmailed or abused online, it is not your fault. There is lots of support available to you.

  • If someone is being threatening to you online, including demanding images or money from you, it is safest not to respond to them, to block them, and to seek help.

  • There are many people who will listen, understand, and support you, including trusted adults (including teachers, youth workers and social workers, or a family member), or helplines like Childline or the Samaritans. Talking about a problem can be the first step to solving it. Read our advice on choosing who to speak to if you are having difficulty deciding on who to turn to for support and advice.  

  • If you are under 18, you can report what has happened to CEOP. CEOP is there to help young people who are being sexually abused, or are worried that someone they have met someone online is trying to abuse them. If you have reached the age of 18, we recommend that you seek support from a trusted adult, and report this crime to the police.