ACT Policing is urging anyone who may have been blackmailed by a contact met through an online dating application to come forward as four boys face court this morning charged over similar incidents.
An 18-year-old Mawson man will face the ACT Magistrates Court and three teenagers will face the ACT Children’s Court this morning following a recent spate of blackmailing.
In two separate incidents during January 2017, the alleged offenders targeted victims through online dating applications by arranging to meet, then threatening and blackmailing them.
The 18-year-old Mawson man was charged with one count of blackmail in order to obtain a gain. A 15-year-old northside male was charged with blackmail and use a carriage service to menace, harass or offend. A 16-year-old northside male was charged with two counts of blackmail and a 16-year-old southside male was charged with blackmail.
ACT Policing Criminal Investigations Superintendent Ben Cartwright said victims in these incidents did the right thing by coming forward.
“Often an element of blackmail is the threat not to contact the police. These victims did the right thing by coming forward and that’s allowed us to identify the alleged offenders and put them before court,” Superintendent Cartright said.
“It’s possible that there are more victims who have been contacted through online dating website or applications and been blackmailed. We are encouraging any other victims to contact police on 13 14 44.”
ACT Policing are urging Canberra residents to be vigilant against offenders targeting victims through online dating websites or applications.
“Offenders can hide behind the anonymity that online dating provides. While many people use online dating to find love, the reality is that there are some people using dating sites and apps to find potential victims,” Superintendent Cartwright said.
“Offenders may use the content of online conversations to blackmail their victims or may arrange to meet up with victims and then threaten them with violence.
“It’s important that people using these sites remain aware of the possibility that the person they’re talking with may not be sincere.”
Many dating websites and applications provide safety advice to help members protect themselves against crime.
“When you plan to meet someone you don’t know for the first time, it’s best to meet in a public place. Let a friend know when and where you plan to meet up and, if possible, take a friend with you,” Superintendent Cartwright said.