REPORTS of sexual exploitation have in Scotland increased by 44 per cent – with the youngest victim aged just 10.
Data published by Police Scotland has shown that 238 crimes were reported between January and August last year – an increase of 87 from the previous year.
Among the incidents, 83% included footage or images being obtained through webcam recordings or pictures provided from the victim.
Two-thirds of the extortions demanded money from the victim to avoid disclosure of sexual images or footage they had unwittingly provided to criminals.
Sextortion victims were aged between 10 and 85, with the majority (64% or 182) aged 25 and under.
Assistant Chief Constable Pat Campbell, Police Scotland, said: “Becoming a victim of extortion is devastating particularly if the extortion involves the threat of sexual exposure.
“Social media has become the default for communicating and meeting people during lockdown, for both adults and children. Criminals are targeting people online and tapping into vulnerabilities.
“It is distressing to realise that actions you thought were private are now a source of threat. It is a particularly worrying trend that we are now seeing increasing numbers of children being targeted and threatened in this way.
“Criminals don’t care about the hurt or damage they cause, they only care about money. And once they identify a victim it is likely their demands will continue.
“We can’t underestimate how important online apps and platforms have been for people during lockdown but sometimes the people you meet online are not who they say they are. We want people to be aware of the risks and stay safe online.
“If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sextortion please contact the police. Every report will be treated seriously, sensitively and you will be treated with respect.”
Among children, most extortion demands were for further images or videos. However, a number included webcam extortions for money or threats of violence.