Police in York Region, just north of Toronto, are warning of a string of cases in which men are being tricked into performing sex acts on webcams and then extorted for money. In these instances, men are being approached by catfish Facebook accounts of women, convinced to get on webcam, take off their clothing, and perform sex acts. During the webcam sessions, images and video are being captured for use in blackmail.
"They're telling people that if they don't send money that they'll share the photos with family and their friends," Constable Andy Pattenden, a spokesperson for York Regional Police, told VICE. He said that between early November and January 26, when they put out a media release, there were six cases reported to their department. Since the media release, Pattenden says more victims have come forward.
Though Pattenden said the police department is unable to release details about the specific sex acts men are being asked to perform on webcam during these scams, he said that it "could be different for each one." He also added that they believe it could be more than one person responsible for the string of scams.
"The challenge with these cases is that they're difficult to figure out who's responsible for them because they could basically be anywhere in the world," Pattenden told VICE.
According to police, some of the catfish profiles have typical seductive photos of attractive women in lingerie or bikinis, but they've also had cases where "it was just an ordinary, plain-looking person, not someone or a photo that was all glammed up."
Through communication with other police departments in Canada, York Region believes that these types of "sextortion" cases are becoming increasingly widespread. They are also concerned that there are likely many more victims who could be too embarrassed to come forward.
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