Police in the Philippines have arrested dozens of suspects linked to cybersex blackmailing cases, in which victims in foreign countries were persuaded to expose themselves in front of webcams or send explicit material and later threatened to send the footage or photos to relatives unless a payment was made.
The INTERPOL-coordinated operation resulted in the arrest of 58 individuals, including three men linked to the group which harassed Scottish teenager Daniel Perry, who jumped off the Forth Road Bridge near Edinburg in July last year after being blackmailed.
In the first operation of its kind that busted what has been referred to as 'Sextortion' networks, information shared between the INTERPOL, Hong Kong Police Force, Singapore Police Force and the Philippines National Police (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime Group led to the identification of 190 to 195 individuals working for organized crime groups operating out of the Philippines, INTERPOL said in a press release.
Codenamed Operation Srikeback, the Philippines National Police carried out series of raids around the country on 30 April and 1 May, resulting in the seizure of 250 pieces of electronic evidence including mobile phones, laptops, network and storage devices as well as live ammunition.
Operating in an almost industrial scale from call centre-style offices, such cyber-blackmail operatives are even provided training on how to target innocent women for live webcam sex, and are even offered bonus incentives such as holidays, cash or mobile phones for reaching their financial targets, INTERPOL said in the surprise announcement.
"The scale of these sextortion networks is massive and run with just one goal in mind: to make money regardless of the terrible emotional damage they inflict on their victims," said Sanjay Virmani, Director of the INTERPOL Digital Crime Centre.
"A young Scottish teenager lost his life as a result of this online activity. The impact on his family, friends and wide community cannot be imagined, said Police Scotland's Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, Major Crime and Public Protection.
"Our message is clear: Our focus is on keeping people safe and there is no hiding place - anywhere in the world - if you are a criminal and you undertake this type of activity, which preys on those who might be the most vulnerable and susceptible to coercion and blackmail."
'Sextortion' has been defined as sexual blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favours or money from the victim, with blackmail demands ranging from $500 to $15,000.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Simon.zfn