Up to 3,000 people in one Moroccan town are earning money by duping men into performing lewd acts on camera and then blackmailing them, it has emerged.
Oued Zem, 100 miles south east of Casablanca, has been dubbed the sextortion capital of the world with criminals increasingly targeting British men.
Victims are duped into performing sex acts on webcam before blackmailers threaten to send the video to their friends and family on social media.
They are then paying up to 10,000 dirham (£800) in return for the clip to be destroyed, according to an investigation by The Sun‘s reporter Robin Perrie who interviewed a man from Oued Zem who was involved in the scam for two years before being jailed.
Hamzer Danjer told him his team of four used images of Colombian porn star Dayana Perez Sosa – without her knowledge – as part of a sophisticated method of luring victims and that ‘just about every man would fall for it’.
The Sun reports that Morocco has detained more than 350 people in a crackdown on the industry – with most of the arrested being made in Oued Zem, a town of 90,000.
The country is also said to have set up a series of designated cyber crime units in a bid to destroy the illegal industry.
According to National Crime Agency Statistics, the number of Britons reporting cases of sextortion has rocketed by nearly a thousand from 385 in 2015 to 1,245 in 2016.
Experts suspect thousands more have fallen prey to the gangs without contacting the authorities about their plight.
On its advice page, the agency urges victims to call police, not to communicate with or pay blackmailers and to preserve evidence such as their Skype ID.
In November, police said young professionals were increasingly being targeted in a rising tide of attacks by online ‘sextortion’ blackmail gangs.
Overseas criminals were said to be using ‘honey traps’ to entice affluent businessmen and promising young male students to commit compromising acts on webcams.
The gangs were making millions in ransom payments by threatening to share the footage with family, friends and colleagues.
Officers from the NCA warned that Britain was being targeted by gangs in Morocco, the Philippines and the Ivory Coast.
Oued Zem, 100 miles south east of Casablanca, has been dubbed the sextortion capital of the world with criminals increasingly targeting British men
They have discovered criminals running factory-style centres, with ‘honey trap’ actors, blackmailers and financial centres laundering payments.
Investigators said the gangs targeted individuals through Facebook, dating sites and even professional networking site LinkedIn. In most cases they appear to single out potential victims based on their ‘ability to pay’ and because ‘they have something to lose’.
In a sign of the dreadful toll that the crime can take, four men – all aged between 18 and 24 – are known to have killed themselves as they faced extortion.
Scottish prosecutors are trying to extradite a Filipino man over the death of 17-year-old Daniel Perry in July 2013. The teenager, from Dunfermline in Fife, killed himself after being lured into a webcam chat.
In 2015, schoolboy Ronan Hughes, 17, from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, also took his own life after posting pictures of himself online.