A teenage boy has killed himself after being tricked into having a Skype conversation with a girl he believed to be the same age as him, only to fall victim to blackmailers.
17-year-old Daniel Perry, from Dunfermline, Fife, jumped to his death last month from the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland, after an extortionist threatened to share the video of the conversation with his friends and family.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the blackmailers told Daniel he would be "better off dead" if he did not pay up.
I've warned before about the dangers involved in looking for love online, but Daniel's death takes this to an all new level of horror.
There are reports that Daniel shared his Skype ID on Facebook and Twitter in the hours before his death, inviting strangers to contact him for a chat. It's possible, therefore, that criminals are scooping up publicly posted Skype names of young men and attempting to blackmail them.
A typical scenario might be that a young woman befriends a potential victim via a social network, and enters into steamy webcam conversations with their intended prey. During the course of these conversations, the female might strip her clothes off and encourage their male victim to do the same.
What the man may not realise, as they take their own clothes off and potentially engage in various sexual acts in front of the camera, is that they are being secretly recorded.
The next thing they know, they are being blackmailed with threats to circulate the compromising photographs and videos.
Earier this year, Singapore police reported a five-fold increase in just this kind of webcam extortion attempts against men.
Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming the next man duped in this fashion:
- Always be wary of strangers befriending you on social networks. If they're suddenly showing a romantic interest in you, ask yourself if it's likely that they would have fallen for you out of the billions of other internet users.
- Never put yourself into a compromising position on your webcam and keep your clothes on. You cannot be sure that the person at the other end isn't recording everything that is taking place. Additionally, don't give away too much personal information to someone you don't really know.
- If anyone does ever attempt to extort money from you online, don't pay them. Contact the police instead. You may be embarrassed about the mess you have got yourself into, but the authorities are the right ones to investigate and (hopefully) bring the culprit to justice.
This advice, sadly, is too late for Daniel Perry and his family.
Daniel's mother Nicola told the press:
"Knowing him as I do, he has felt embarrassed, horrified and has thought he's let everybody down... He was coming up for his 18th birthday so it's not as if we could have been checking what he was doing on his laptop. However he wasn't doing anything wrong, just what anyone his age might do, but this scam is all about exploiting young people. Even if he came to me and said he needed money we'd have helped him but we knew nothing about any of it."
"He was not the type of person who let things get him down. He was a happy laddie, not depressed and the last type of person you would think would take their life. We're a very close family and I just wished he had come to me and said something. I would have gone on the computer and told them to P-off."
Let's hope that the blackmailers are brought to justice soon and appropriately punished.
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