NewsCrime Desk

Gangs blackmailing men on social media

Crime DeskBy Ralph Riegel
Ronan Hughes
Ronan Hughes

SOCIAL media sites are being exploited by criminals for elaborate sex blackmail operations.

The websites and Skype are being used by ruthless Eastern European and North African gangs to lure young Irish men into exchanging intimate footage with who they assume is a young woman they have met online.

In fact, the respondent is a gang member using sophisticated IT equipment to entrap the young men.

Such blackmail incidents have occurred at several locations around Ireland, including Dublin, Limerick and Tyrone. The Limerick and Tyrone attacks have now been linked to gangs in Romania.

Tyrone teen Ronan Hughes (17) is believed to have taken his own life last year after being blackmailed for €4,000 via Skype and Facebook.

One attempted Dublin attack is believed to involve a Moroccan gang, which targets young Muslim men living in Europe.

Warnings over such scams and other cyber threats will be outlined at Dublin Info Sec 2016, a major cyber-security conference taking place at the RDS tomorrow.

The conference, for which Independent News and Media and the Herald are media partners, will outline the challenges facing Ireland in a fast-evolving world of online threats.

The event will see experts from the private and public cyber-security sectors address topics including the threat of ransomware, Ireland’s cyber resiliency and the IT security tools and technologies available in the face of increasing risks.

Gardai have warned people to be extremely careful with personal images on social media sites, while an Interpol operation is already under way into the gangs in Romania and Morocco.

The gangs use sophisticated IT equipment to trick users into believing they are corresponding with a genuine individual.

The software also allows them to convincingly indicate that intimate footage, usually harvested from porn sites, involves the individual the person is corresponding with.

Once the victim posts their own intimate footage, it is recorded and sent back to them via a private YouTube link.

The individual is then told that, unless they pay sums of €10,000 or more, the footage will be sent to everyone on their Facebook or Twitter lists.