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Regional police caution public against Internet blackmail

After a few recent incidents, regional police are warning the public to be careful about what they do online.

A series of online frauds have been reported in recent months, whereby perpetrators find unwitting victims on online dating sites, or even on Facebook, and then initiate video conversations with them through a service like Skype. They then convince them to expose themselves or to masturbate, and they secretly record the action. The fraudsters then threaten to publicly broadcast the images, unless they receive a large payment of money.

“We want to tell people to be careful, and don’t show your body to just anyone on the Internet,” said Sûreté du Québec Sgt. Bruno Beaulieu. “It could sometimes be thousands of dollars.”

He said regional police received about 10 complaints in the last year, but suspects there are many cases that go unreported because the victims are ashamed or afraid.

Beaulieu said most of the victims are men, many of them married. But he added men and women from teenagers to age 60 and up have fallen victim. Perpetrators are either men or women.

Beaulieu said it’s difficult for police to trace the perpetrators because they are good at covering their tracks.

“And they can often be in another country,” Beaulieu said.

He added if anyone has been a victim of such a fraud, he or she should report it to police.

“We have investigations open, and any information we get can help,” he said.

jmagder@montrealgazette.com
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