Surrey Police is urging parents to be vigilant and protect their children from falling victim to online crime, as officers investigate a report that a teenage boy was blackmailed by someone he was befriended by on the Internet.
The 15-year-old victim has alleged that he was befriended by a woman he met through an online game. She is alleged to have recorded him performing a sexual act and then threatened to pass the video to his family and friends if he did not pay her 500 euros.
PC Carina Jewell, who is investigating the allegation, said: “We have carried out extensive enquiries since this was reported to us at the end of December 2015 but unfortunately the woman has changed her name and photo so we have no way of tracing her. However, we do have concerns that she may have befriended other young people and threatened them in the same way and we would like to hear from anyone who believes they may have been a victim of a similar offence.
“We would also like to remind young people in particular to be careful online and never add people they don’t know. Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have obviously become incredibly popular in recent years and most users are genuine, but because it is so easy to hide your real identity, it is possible to come into contact with people you would normally avoid.
“If you believe you have been a victim of any type of crime, please ensure you report it to us by calling 101 or use our online reporting form.”
Anyone using the Internet is urged to follow the advice below to ensure their online safety:
- Use strong, memorable passwords
- Install anti-virus software on new devices
- Check privacy settings on social media
- Download software and application patches when prompted
- For more advice, visit https://www.youtube.com/user/googlefamilysafety https://www.getsafeonline.org/ orhttp://www.cybersafesurrey.org/
Further advice to parents to help make your child safer online:
- Keep the computer in your family room where you can monitor your child’s activities and spend time online together to show your child proper behaviour and rules,
- Become more computer literate – get to know the sites your child uses, what type of information they offer and whether there are ways to block out inappropriate material,
- Help your child to understand some people lie online and it’s better to keep online mates online. They should never meet up with any strangers without an adult they trust,
- The internet is not a private space – advise your children not to post any pictures, videos or information on their profiles or in chat rooms that they would not want a parent or guardian to see,
- Never give out personal information online such as your home address, telephone number or child’s school name,
- Always keep in mind that you leave information about yourself behind as you move through the internet,
- Some websites collect information called ‘cookies’. Cookies are compiled lists of information that may include your name, address, telephone number and possibly even your credit card number. Find out how to turn off your cookies – contact your internet provider for help if you need it,
- Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they have met online without your permission. If a meeting is arranged, make the first meeting in a public place and accompany your child to the meeting. If in doubt, contact the police,
- Do not allow your child to respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene or threatening. Forward a copy of such messages to your internet service provider,
- Do not allow them to access private chat rooms unless you are present,
- Consider using an online service that has special child accounts with restricted access to chat rooms and the internet,
- Monitor your credit card bill. Many pornographic internet sites require credit card payments in order to gain access,
- Visit http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/ for more information on staying safe online,
- Working in partnership with police, government, the internet and mobile phone industries, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is the UK Hotline for reporting criminal online content. The IWF’s service is free to the general public to help minimise the availability of illegal content and protect internet users, visit their website to find out more.