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Police urge victims of extortion not to be afraid to come forward

By Alan Shields

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Chief Inspector Judy Hill, Inverness Area Command, Burnett Road Police Station, Inverness. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Chief Inspector Judy Hill, Inverness Area Command, Burnett Road Police Station, Inverness. Picture: Callum Mackay..

It can be one of the most humiliating of crimes.

But people who are extorted after sharing intimate images with fraudsters should not be afraid to come forward, area commander for Inverness, Chief Inspector Judy Hill tells the Inverness Courier during an exclusive interview.

It was the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 that made it a criminal offence to share intimate images, videos or other content without consent.

And despite it being a relatively new offence, it along with other frauds, are a problem that officers in the Highland capital are worried about.

Ch Insp Hill said: “We’ve seen quite a significant increase in fraud. It could be a banking fraud where someone phones pretending to be from a bank and says that someone’s account has been compromised and they need to move money to keep it safe.

“We’ve seen romance frauds. During the lockdown people were a lot more isolated and going online a lot more. So someone might transfer money to someone they have gone into a relationship with online.

“Then of course there is extortion which is quite a new but quite a significant issue, where someone is persuaded to engage in the sharing of intimate images online and they are then told if they don’t transfer money then the images will be distributed to the their families and friends.

“These types of frauds are really impactful on people’s lives.”

The area commander wants the public to know that her officers will do their utmost to provide support to victims.

She said: “With extortions and romance frauds the problem is getting people to report that because you get people feeling very ashamed.

“But they have been targeted – they are victims of crime – and it’s very important that we talk about that so that we get the message out there that people should think about what they are doing online and also that they should report it to us.

“We can offer support and put them on to dedicated support services.”

Many of those roped into these extortions and frauds are younger people. That is why the police in Inverness look to engage with schools and the wider community regularly.

Ch Insp Hill said: “We have a community beats team as well. We’ve got a good relationship with schools in Inverness and we are just looking to build on that.

“A lot of that is about engagement with young people and building relationships and having a presence in schools.”

n More from our exclusive interview in The Inverness Courier next week.

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