A growing number of Danes are falling victim to online ‘sextortion’ in which criminals obtain intimate videos and photos of internet users and then threaten to release them publicly if they are not paid for their silence.
Broadcaster DR reports that at least 20 Danes were sextortion victims in 2014 but the Danish National Police (Rigspolitiet) say that the actual number could be much higher.
“We know that in Asia and other places in Europe there have actually been many, many cases. So it could be that there are also quite a few cases here at home that we are just not hearing about,” Johnny Lundberg, an inspector with Rigspolitiet’s cyber crime centre, told DR.
Sextortion often involves a cyber criminal posing as a partner who is interested in having a sex chat. Once the victim is tricked into engaging in private sexual behaviour the perpetrator collects still images and/or videos and then uses that material to extort money. In other cases, hackers simply overtake a computer user’s webcam and wait until they get their hands on sexually explicit material.
The criminals often threaten to publicly release the images or to send them directly to the victim’s friends and family.
Lundberg told DR that there have been cases abroad in which the victims of sextortion have ended up killing themselves. Although that hasn’t yet happened in Denmark, he said the consequences can still be devastating.
“It can mean something for one’s work, one's family, one's circle of friends – so in that way it is very intimidating,” he said.
None of the 20 reported cases of sextortion in Denmark have been solved, Lundberg said.