So far 864 people in the UK have reported instances of "webcam blackmail" to police in 2016, more than double the number of reported incidents in 2015.
The survivors of these crimes are mostly men; many are befriended by criminals online who trick them into performing sexual acts during a videoconference session, which is surreptitiously captured and used as leverage against the victim to extort cash. Other criminals hack their victims' computers, infecting them with "Remote Access Trojans" (RATs) that let them surreptitiously control the victims' camera and mic, as well as logging their keystrokes and plundering their hard drives.
At least four men and boys in the UK committed suicide after being attacked in one of these ways. A substantial portion of the victims were boys 11-20 years old.
In response to this surge in reported cases, the NCA has issued new advice for victims of webcam blackmail: don't panic, don't pay, don't communicate, and preserve evidence. Basically, if you find yourself being blackmailed, you should go straight to your local police, who will "take your case seriously, will deal with it in confidence, and will not judge you for being in this situation." You should not pay the ransom, but if you've already paid, make a note of where it was collected from; if it hasn't been collected, cancel the payment. Don't communicate with the criminal; instead, take screenshots of any messages, suspend your Facebook account (don't delete it), and report it to YouTube if there's a video that needs blocking.
Reported cases of webcam blackmail double, are linked to four suicides
[Sebastian Anthony/Ars Technica]