Victims of 'sextortion' speak about how it affected them

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There were 864 reported cases of "sextortion" in the past year - up from just 11 in 2009.

However, the National Crime Agency believes the actual number could be much higher - either because they are being classified differently or because people aren't reporting them out of embarrassment or fear.

Here are three people who have fallen victim to the crime:

Gary, who is in his late teens and from Hampshire

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)
There were 864 reported cases of "sextortion" in the past year (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Due to working night shifts, Gary found it difficult to meet people and decided to try to do so online.

One woman he had been speaking to online for some time suggested persistently that they move the conversation onto Skype and asked for his Facebook profile and picture.

He said: "She was halfway across the room. It lasted for around 30 to 45 minutes, all on the phone. She said 'show me a bit more, and show me your face'.

"Then the messages came up - 'pay £500 or this is going all over Facebook. I want £500´ then she started listing my friends' details.

(Thinkstock/supershabashnyi)
Victims are targeted on social media sites (Thinkstock)

"I said I could not afford £500, she said £200 was the lowest. I said I could only pay £50.

"I offered to go to the bank but went to the police station instead. I was trembling throughout the whole thing, shaking and thinking 'what's going to happen?'. This will ruin my life and did not know what to do. If this video is released onto Facebook, what would I do?

"'What's going to happen with my job? What will my friends think?' I thought about suicide, it would have been too embarrassing. I would not have been able to face anyone. But I went to the police, and kept her talking by saying I was at the bank."

And, it doesn't just affect the young.

John, in his 60s, from Hertfordshire was also targeted

Skype London office.
Victims are blackmailed with photos and videos they previously sent in good faith (Yui Mok/PA)

John took to online dating after splitting from his wife and eventually made contact with a woman on a Filipino site that a friend recommended to him.

John and the woman had normal conversations and one night she suggested they start speaking on Skype.

He said: "We exchanged some messages and she made some suggestion to say that she would remove her clothes if I did the same.

"I'd had a few glasses of wine so maybe my inhibitions had dropped a bit and I agreed. Straight away after that, the threats began."

Example of a fake profile mocked up by criminals (National Crime Agency)
Example of a fake profile mocked up by criminals (National Crime Agency)

"They said 'now I've recorded you. If you don't pay me, I'll put that video all over Facebook and YouTube'."

John said he did not go to police straight away as he felt embarrassed.

He said: "Even now, I have trouble going on to the internet and I can't use Facebook any more. I wake up every morning and what is always in my head is that I don't know if that video still exists or not.

"The police told me that people have committed suicide because of this, I can understand why. You feel destroyed."

Ronan Hughes, 17, from Clonoe, Co Tyrone, took his own life in June 2015

(Thinkstock)
Victims often find themselves too embarrassed to to go the police (Thinkstock)

His family said the teenager was subjected to a "relentless" campaign of bullying by a Nigerian gang and was duped into posting intimate photos online after receiving pictures of a girl.

He was then blackmailed for £3,000 by criminals who threatened to upload the images to the Facebook pages of his friends.

In October, police investigating the webcam blackmail linked to Ronan's death charged a man in Romania and he was remanded in custody.

The suspect, aged 31, appeared at Bucharest Municipal Court accused of producing and distributing indecent images of children and blackmail.