Avon and Somerset Police has launched a campaign to tackle the rising number of sextortion cases.

In the past year, 720 incidents were reported, where victims were blackmailed with their own sexual images or videos.

This distressing crime, which has increased by a worrying 40% annually over the past two years, typically targets younger men, with over half of reported victims being males below the age of 29.

The sextortion scheme, often powered by sophisticated organised crime groups, depends heavily on shame and fear, manipulating victims into fulfilling the criminal's demands because they fear their private content will be exposed to family and friends.

In response to this growing trend, the police have launched a campaign aimed at raising public awareness and empowering individuals, particularly the youth, to resist such schemes.

Their advice for anyone caught in such a situation boils down to three actions: "don’t panic, don’t pay and don’t communicate."

Chard & Ilminster News: 720 incidents of sextortion were reported to police in the last year

Megan Haldane, Cyber Protect Officer said: "Criminals can target people through social media platforms, dating apps, and online chat forums, it can be through the use of webcams or by the victim being coerced into creating the image or video.

"They may use a fake identity to befriend them online and then threaten to send images or videos to family and friends.

"It’s a crime that is sometimes committed by individuals, but organised crime groups are often behind it, and they are experts in deceiving people."

"We also want to reach out to people who have experienced sextortion - to let them know they’re not alone.

"We ask people to tell their friends and family and report it to us.

"We can help you take back control"

Mark Shelford, Police and Crime Commissioner added: "As the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners lead for Economic and Cyber Crime, I know these online offences have very real-world consequences.

"This campaign will protect people by equipping them with knowledge to spot this fraudulent behaviour."

The video, as part of the campaign, is now available to watch online.

The Avon and Somerset Police urge everyone to share it widely so as to increase awareness about sextortion, its dangers and the effective ways to handle such situations, with the ultimate aim of reducing the number of victims affected.