A friend request from a beautiful woman pops up on Facebook, quickly followed by a line like “Hey handsome. ” It might seem like an offer too good to refuse, but for many Maltese men this is the start of a nightmare that costs them thousands of euros and could risk their marriage.The cases of ‘sextortion’ make up the bulk of the 120 reports of sexual images of Maltese being shared without their consent that have been investigated by the police in the past year and a half.
This, however, had now escalated to that many every week as more and more men fall prey to the scammers.
“The men who come forward with these reports are devastated.
They said the rest of the cases they investigated were of images and videos recorded consensually but shared without permission.
Earlier this year this newspaper reported how the number of people investigated for sharing photos and sex videos of Maltese people without their consent had doubled.
They are faced with two options: paying up sums that they can’t afford, or having a sexual video of them shared with their friends and family all over social media,” the sources said. The police sources said their international counterparts had told them how criminals, believed to be based in Africa and Eastern Europe, demanded as much as €5,000 after their prey stripped in front of a webcam.
The sources explained how the blackmailers coax their victims in with a friend request from a beautiful woman, often given a fake Maltese surname.
No wonder they get manipulated by businesses, all the time.
When you message with someone online it’s hard to transport emotion.
Sharing such images without consent is illegal, and from time to time, the abuse comes to the fore.
Earlier this year, a video of a woman engaged in a sex act with her partner spread through messaging apps, even prompting Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to promise the woman justice.
However, the sheer number of victims one perpetrator can ‘sexploit’, coupled with the fact that perpetrators can be thousands of miles away, makes it especially difficult for police to stem the tide of sexploitation cases.