The fall of a criminal ring exposes the risk of ‘sexting’ and other online practices. “Being judged is the biggest fear of victims”, says Christian expert Ioana Humelnicu.
The figures of a new wave of crimes in the area of extortion have been made public in Spain after the manager of a LaLiga team (highest professional league) was fired after a sexual video emerged and was viewed online by thousands.
Malaga Football Club manager Víctor Sánchez Del Amo denounced on Twitter that he had been “victim of a crime against my privacy with harassment and extortion (…) The case in the hands of the police and I am following their instruction”.
As many as 700 had retweeted the video in the first hours. The owner of the football club, Abdullah ben Nasser Al Thani, immediately informed that he would suspend the manager.
The case immediately opened a debate in Spanish media about the misuse of sexual contents, and the harm caused to Del Amo and his family.
A CRIMINAL ‘SEXTORSION’ RING
Days later, the police reported that a criminal ring of sexual extortion that had affected “around 4,000 people” had fallen. Their practices “extended to almost all of the national territory” and included threats, identity theft and blackmail.
Most of the victims were recorded as they contracted or tried to contract prostitutes. According to newspaper El País, “paralyzed victims and led them to pay the money requested, which in some cases, was more than several thousands of euros.”
Messages such as “there will be consequences and your family will find out”were used by the criminal group to threaten their victims.
THE RISK FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
“It doesn’t matter how the criminal got the material, if the material is used or distributed without the person’s consent we are talking about sextortion”, says Ioana Humelnicu, a human trafficking expert in Romania.
In some countries, this kind of blackmail is used to prostitute young people. Most victims tend to be “minors, because they are easily manipulated”. Criminals usually “create fake accounts on online platforms, using the vast world of social media networks and online gaming. Then they contact the victim and start an online grooming process. They earn their trust step by step, building a virtual relationship with the victim and at some point, they will obtain sexually compromising materials with the victim. Then, the next step is ‘sextortion’”.
But also adults can be extorted, when their mobile phones or private email or messaging accounts are hacked. The criminal “gains access to the personal files on that computer, like photos, video, contacts and important details about the victim”.
In many cases, “‘sexting’ is a mean used by the criminals to get their hands on compromising materials”.
DEPRESSION AND SUICIDE THOUGHTS
Victims of ‘sextortion’ suffer emotionally. “Besides these immediate effects, the victims can suffer depression, dropping out of school... They can inflict self-harm and in extreme cases they can even commit suicide”.
“The biggest fear is of being judged”, says Homelnicu. “We must create a safe environment for them, we must listen and make them feel loved and accepted no matter what. They need to know that this does not define them, that there is still a better future ahead”.
Everyone should be aware of the risks of internet, especially parents, says Homelnicu. “We need to learn how to protect ourselves and our family in order to surf the web in the safest conditions. It’s just like driving a car, before your start your journey you fasten your seatbelt to make sure you protect yourself and your loved ones”.
HOW TO ACT?
These are some steps to take if someone is suffering ‘sextortion’:
1. Talk to someone about what happened. It i important to understand that you are a victim in this case and that the criminals rely on your silence to continue their abuse.
2. Don’t comply with their demands. Criminals will not stop, and will ask for more and more if you give them what they want.
3. Interrupt any contact with the criminals. Any further contact will expose you more to their manipulation. Unfriend and block any account on social media that is related to the criminals and deactivate your own personal accounts for a while.
4. Don’t delete data. Any material can be used as evidence to build up a case against the criminal. If the video or other content is posted online, report it immediately to the online hosting company.
5. Contact the local police and follow their indications.