London - Charities and internet security experts warned of the growing danger of cyber blackmail on Sunday in the wake of the suicide of another teenager who was being harassed online.
Daniel Perry killed himself after he was threatened that webcam chats he believed he was having with an American girl would be played to his family and friends unless he paid money into a bank account.
It is believed his blackmailers found his Skype address through social media sites he used. It was reported that he had also been urged to commit suicide on the social networking site Ask.fm which has been linked to five other deaths including that of 14-year-old Hannah Smith in Leicestershire.
Police in Scotland said they were investigating the death last month of 17-year-old Daniel, a trainee mechanic from Dunfermline, Fife.
Meanwhile, child protection experts urged young people never to give away their real identity or exchange images of themselves with anyone they met on the internet. While less common than online bullying, online blackmail is an increasingly frequent international phenomenon. Alberic Guigou, of the internet company Reputation Squad, said he dealt with up to 10 cases a day in France.
“People find you on Skype, social media networks, and they try to trap you into giving away your personal information, especially pictures and videos of you naked. Most of the [perpetrators] are professional scammers ... they make it an actual business. But sometimes it is people who go to school with you or people from work - but there is much less of that,” he said.
Jim Gamble, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, who now runs his own online safety company, INEQE, said the threat of being exposed for private sexual behaviour massively increased the power tormenters' threats had over vulnerable young people.
“Bullying has always existed. It has always been there but at the end of the day this is a wake-up call for us. We need to get a grip here now. We need to do something radical so there are real consequences for virtual bullying. It means applying the laws that currently exist and an appetite to investigate,” he said. “We should not assume that because this is based on an online platform that we can't catch them. They could be in this country - they could know the person they are bullying in the real world.”
This week, two Canadian teenagers appeared in court in Halifax, Nova Scotia, accused of the internet bullying of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons. She killed herself after an image of her allegedly being raped by four boys was circulated online.
Elaine Chalmers, area manager for the NSPCC's helpline in Scotland, said effort still had to go into educating parents and children of the threat.
“It's important not to send people pictures of yourself or take part in video calls if you aren't sure who you are speaking to,” she said. - The Independent