Dubai Police, TRA campaign to thwart cyber blackmail

About 40 to 50 per cent of culprits already booked: Police. (File)

Dubai Police has warned cyber blackmailers of stringent action and punishment of up to 10 years under UAE law for those found guilty.

The law enforcement agency yesterday unveiled a detailed awareness campaign along with the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) against what they termed as a growing menace.

The number of related complaints received by the police has increased significantly over the years.

“While we received about 80 such complaints in 2013, the numbers shot up to almost 212 until the end of 2014. Last year we registered about 73 such cases,” said Saeed Al Hajri, Director at the Cyber Crime division of Dubai Police.

Both the police department and the TRA said they would co-operate with each other in quickly tracking any such violations and said they have also been working with governments and regulators in other countries including international bodies like the Interpol and United Nations to bring the offenders to justice.

“We have already succeeded in booking about 40 to 50 per cent of the culprits both here and abroad,” said Al Hajri.

According to him, most cases relate to blackmailing related to some sort of sex or nudity but also include financial crime.

“Before 2013 most of the complainants were women but since then we have seen cases where men have also been subjects of harassment and blackmail,” he said.

According to him, victims belong to all age group starting from teenagers to those as old as 40 and 50.

“The youngest case we received was that of a 13-year-old girl.

But upon investigation we found that it was her own classmate who was trying to bully her,” he said.

Proliferation of technology and the integration of enhanced multimedia tools have resulted in an increase in such cases which the industry has termed as ‘Sextortion’.

UK police earlier this year issued a warning of increase in ‘sextortion’ cases involving Facebook and Skype. In the US, too, there has been an increase in such numbers especially involving teenagers.

Ghaith al Majaina, Acting Manager, Security and Quality Services at the TRA said it is constantly monitoring the social media and also is in touch with most of the administrators of major such platforms.

“When we receive complaints the first task is to take down the violating profile. Sometimes we do it in minutes but at times it can take up to days. We urge the parents and peers to educate kids and youngsters on how to use the social media. Beware of what you post on social media. Always read the terms and condition of the apps that you download on your smartphones and mobile devices,” he warned.

Dubai Police also urged the public to immediately reach out to them in case of any attempts by strangers to blackmail them online. “We have about 20 different ways how you can reach us. People can also leave a message using the Al Ameen service and call 8004888,” he added.

Five tips to secure yourself from cyber blackmail

Avoid chatting with strangers. That is rule number one. Never chat with strangers, especially when you have never met them in person. Almost all cyber blackmails end up at the doorsteps of someone who has been befriended on the Internet and on social networking sites. Even if you do happen to chat, avoid video chats.

Never post any sort of suggestive images or videos. Never, ever post any sort of pornographic images, either of yourself or of anyone whom you know online. Never share any of your images with strangers. Most blackmailers lure you from a social networking site such as Facebook to video chat sites such as Skype and coerce you to either partially or fully take off your clothes and even sometimes perform certain sexual acts. 

Discuss with your parents or friends. You might well have been coerced into doing something exactly what is mentioned above. But that should not stop you from discussing the issue with your parents, friends or someone who you trust. Trying to hush it up or negotiate with the blackmailer could only worsen the situation and lead you further into a trap.

Gather evidence. The moment you realise someone is trying to blackmail you, start gathering the evidence. It could be an email, text message, interactions on social networking sites or even screenshots. Any evidence will go a long way in identifying the culprit.

Report to the police. Irrespective of whether you have the evidence or not, immediately report the matter to the police. The rest will be handled by them. Dubai Police have promised that they could track down the criminal wherever he is, be it within the country or abroad.

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