Last Updated on 2nd May 2024

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30th April 2024

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⚠️ Warning: This article contains information that readers may find distressing. ⚠️

The National Crime Agency has issued a warning in response to a global rise in financially motivated sexual extortion, commonly called ‘sextortion.’ The alert gives advice to safeguarding professionals and parents regarding the signs of sextortion, raising awareness and supporting children to seek help as well as support for victims.

This alert and resources below will provide you with further information on what sextortion is and how it happens, along with practical advice and signposting to help and further support.

If you haven’t already, please start the conversation today. Foster a safe environment free of shame and judgement that educates and empowers a young person to come forward, speak to an adult they trust, who can reassure them with the help and support they may need.

Early intervention is key: Be Aware. Respond. Report.

What is Sextortion?

Sextortion is a financial cyber-enabled crime that exploits a young person’s trust and seeks to control them through the threat of public humiliation, specifically through releasing nude images or semi-nude images to the public.

After the explicit imagery is captured by the sexual predator, it is used to blackmail the young person into sending more images, money, or in some cases, into recruiting more victims.

Images can be both real or generated by AI. It can happen to anyone, but it is particularly prevalent among teenagers and young adults.

The National Crime Agency have reported that while sextortion is prevalent amongst all age groups and genders, males between 14 – 18 are more likely to victims of this crime.

Findings released by the IWF in 2024 show that a record 392,660 reports of suspected child sexual abuse imagery were made in 2023, a 5% increase from 2022.

How Does Sextortion Happen?

Sextortion typically begins when a criminal strikes up a friendship or relationship with a young person online. In the beginning, these will appear entirely innocent as they bond over shared interests. A young person may encounter someone on a social media platform, a dating app, or even a gaming platform like Roblox.

As the interactions progress over time, it takes an unexpected turn towards sexual topics, initiated by the other person. In some cases, the young person may share explicit photos or engage in intimate acts on camera, unaware of the digital trap being set.

The perpetrator captures and saves these intimate images to use as leverage to manipulate and control the young person.

The threat of exposure can seem extremely real when the perpetrator goes to the lengths of searching through the young person’s social media platforms to find their close friends and family members’ accounts.

The sudden realisation of being trapped in a sextortion scheme induces panic and a range of negative emotions in the young person. They may feel violated, afraid, and embarrassed.

Sadly, in some cases, the psychological impact can lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Young people may appear outwardly robust and resilient, but in moments of crisis may turn to their phones. Scrolling through online search results of horror stories can intensify feelings of worry, embarrassment, and shame.

In 2023, 16-year-old Murray Dowey died hours after an online blackmailer threatened to expose intimate details about him to everyone in his contact list. The predator had posed as a young woman online and spent a day exchanging messages with the young boy. Just a few hours later, Murray had taken his own life, panicking at the situation he was in.

While this is understandably a deeply worrying scenario to prepare for, you should remain calm and be proactive with a suicide prevention plan.

How Can Parents and Safeguarding Professionals Help?

Start by educating yourself about sextortion, its tactics, and the impact it can have on young people. Additionally, knowing the signs that a child in your care is involved in sextortion is essential, as well as knowing how approach them and respond appropriately. Stay calm, reassure the young person they are not at fault and then take the necessary steps.
Maintain open lines of communication with young people in your care and ensure they understand who they can reach out to as their trusted adult. Create a non-judgemental space where they can share any concerns or incidents regarding sharing images and sextortion.
Teach young people about online safety and the potential risks they may encounter. Discuss the importance of privacy settings, alongside the risks of taking and sharing sensitive images, videos and disclosing personal information. Whether it be with friends, people they think they know or strangers, ensure they are aware of the concerns and risks surrounding the practice as well as what support they can access if they become a victim of sextortion.
Set clear boundaries regarding online conversations. Discuss the importance of consent and help young people understand what is appropriate and what crosses the line. Encourage them to go to their trusted adult if they are suspicious or uncomfortable with any online interactions.
Update the privacy settings on all social media accounts so that only people your young person knows can view their account. Be mindful of who they invite or accept as a friend or follower and do not accept requests from complete strangers.

If you or your young person come across any suspicious activities or individuals online, report them to the relevant authorities or the platform’s support team. By reporting such incidents, you contribute to the overall safety of the online community.

It is important to remind a young person in your care who is a victim of sextortion that they are not alone, and they are not at fault. Help and support are always available.

  • REASSURE the young person that they are not at fault.
  • STAY CALM as this is one of the most vulnerable moments in a young person’s life. Be aware of how you respond as this may have an adverse effect and make them more fearful.
  • IGNORE perpetrators demands and do not pay up.
  • END all communication on every channel.
  • SCREENSHOT evidence of blackmail including usernames.
  • CONTACT the police immediately – time is of the essence!
  • BLOCK the offender on all platforms and change your password.
  • REPORT the individual to the relevant platform and the IWF.
  • SUPPORT the young person after the incident. Studies have shown that a suicide prevention plan is often needed after incidents of sextortion, even when the young person seems fine and resilient as they may keep their worries to themselves.



Papyrus is a charity dedicated to preventing suicide in young people. The organisation have created a ‘Suicide Safety Plan’ to ensure that feelings of despair and hopelessness are managed.


Childline is a free service where you can call or live chat with someone anytime. No problem is too big or too small, and someone will be there to talk to you and help you through your issue.

Emergency services

If the child in your care is in immediate danger, ring 999.



The IWF help to remove online child sexual abuse imagery hosted anywhere in the world. You can report an explicit image of a child on their website, and they provide advice and guidance for supporting victims. You can choose to remain anonymous or give your details.

Report Remove

The Report Remove tool is a service provided by Childline and the IWF, that allows young people to report sexual images or videos of themselves that they have shared online in order to have them removed. This service is confidential and provides advice and guidance throughout the reporting process.

Child Exploitation and Online Protection

CEOP is the UK’s National Crime Agency’s child protection command, working to protect children from online sexual abuse. You can report explicit images of a child online directly to CEOP through their website or by calling 0800 80 80 100.


You can report non-consensual or explicit images on Google directly by clicking the ‘report abuse’ link below the image or through their online form.

Further Resources

Safer Schools Teach Hub

Our Teach Hub has a wealth of resources tailored to opening meaningful and honest dialogues with young people.

It is hugely beneficial to begin creating an open discussion with the young person about who their Trusted Adults are at the earliest point as it will allow the child to raise concerns quickly.

Home Learning Hub - Online Safety for Parents

Home Learning Hub for parents

Our Home Learning Hub is our free library of resources to support parents and carers who are taking the time to help their children be safer online.

What You Should Know About Sextortion

Our shareable, “What You Should Know About Sextortion”, is accessible for download to raise awareness of sextortion, as well as a presentation about Youth Produced Sexual Imagery.

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Join our Online Safeguarding Hub Newsletter Network

Members of our network receive weekly updates on the trends, risks and threats to children and young people online.

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Who are your Trusted Adults?

The Trusted Adult video explains who young people might speak to and includes examples of trusted adults, charities and organisations.

Discussing Online Life With Your Child

Use our video for guidance and advice around constructing conversations about the online world with the children in your care.

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