Between late 2019 and early 2020, the number of sextortion cases reported to Lebanon’s security forces increased by more than 50%. Since then, sexual blackmail complaints have been increasing alarmingly.
People commonly fall victim to sextortion when they are convinced by a criminal, usually hiding behind a fake identity, to perform sexual acts with them while a webcam records the activity or send sexual photos or videos of themselves.
The criminal then uses the photos or footage to blackmail their victim, threatening that they would share them with their friends and family if they don’t pay a sum of money.
Between July and August this year, Lebanon saw a “dangerous rise” of 104% in sextortion cases, the Internal Security Forces (ISF) said in a statement on Tuesday.
During that period, the number of reported cases rose from 47 to 96. The ISF said that a high number of these reports came virtually, via its website and Facebook page.
The rise in extortion and sexual harassment complaints from both men and women was notable during the first coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, the security agency reported earlier this year.
Between December 20th, 2019 and February 20th, 2020, the ISF received a total of 43 complaints related to these crimes.
It was between February 21st and April 21st of the current year that the number increased by more than twofold when 122 complaints were reported to the police during that period.
Since the beginning of this year to date, there have been 133 arrests involving sextortion.
In order to combat this rising dangerous crime, the ISF called on people to refrain from taking “indecent” photos or videos of themselves under any circumstance or accepting friend requests from unknown accounts and individuals online.
If you find yourself stuck in a situation involving sextortion or any forms of sexual blackmail, it is important to end all forms of contact with the blackmailer and immediately inform the authorities about your situation.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the criminal is unlikely to stop their attack even if paid the sum of money that they demand.
Consider altering your privacy settings on social media accounts to make them more private and secure, and always be wary of stranger friend requests online.
Victims of sextortion or citizens who are suspicious of an attempt on them are urged to immediately report it to the ISF via its Facebook page, or via the Report Service on its website, or to submit a complaint with the Public Prosecution Office.