TEENAGERS were told to pay thousands of pounds to stop intimate videos from being shared with their friends and family.

Police received a series of reports of teenagers in West Sussex being blackmailed by a person they met through social media site Instagram.

The user was threatening to share intimate videos of them with their contacts unless they handed over a ransom.

The young men, aged between 15 and 20, did not pay the money and instead contacted police.

Sussex Police have now warned of the dangers of "sextortion".

DC Matt Watson said: "Sextortion is an awful and exploitative crime, commonly carried out through social media sites. It causes extreme distress to victims who may feel too embarrassed to come forward and report the incidents.

"Although it can be committed by individuals, organised crime is commonly behind it. Perpetrators can be located anywhere, with many based overseas.

"Most worryingly, we have seen cases involving victims who are under 18. Perpetrators viewing, downloading or forwarding any such video are carrying out further serious criminal offences.

"Please be wary of requests from strangers online. We urge people not to share intimate videos or engage in sexual activity with people they don't know.

"Anyone who has been the victim of cyber related blackmail is asked to come forward and report it to police online, or by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency. They can also report directly to Action Fraud."

Police have also issued guidance to help people avoid becoming victims of "sextortion," a form of blackmail where someone threatens to reveal intimate images of a victim online unless they give in to their demands.

These demands are typically for money or further images.

Criminals will typically befriend potential victims online by using a fake identity before persuading them to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam.

They will then threaten to share these images with the person's friends and family which can make them feel embarrassed and stop them from reporting the incident.

Sussex Police has issued the following pieces of advice to avoid cases of sextortion and webcam blackmail:

  • Do not share intimate videos online
  • Do not get lured into compromising situations such as removing clothes or performing intimate acts online
  • Always remember that what goes online may well stay online
  • Be wary about who you invite or accept invitations from on social networking sites, not accepting friendship requests from strangers
  • Update the privacy settings on your social networking accounts so only people you know can view your account and your friends
  • Do not include any sensitive, private or confidential information in profiles
  • Quickly block nuisance and fraudulent users from further contact with you and also report them for abuse
  • If you become a victim of this type of scam, do not respond to the blackmailer's demands, but report the issue to the police and the site being used
  • If you think that you have already been persuaded by anyone to part with payment details, contact your bank or card issuer immediately

Any crimes can be reported on the Sussex Police website or by calling 101.