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Police issue sextortion advice following online blackmail incidents

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DON’T panic. Don’t communicate. Don’t pay.

That’s the advice given to victims of online blackmail after Bitcoin payments spark sextortion fears.

Victims are faced with demands to pay, or the threat that intimate photos and videos will be shared.

Dyfed-Powys Police has offered the guidance after receiving reports of suspicious transactions involving the digital currency Bitcoin.

Victims are usually contacted through email or social media, with demands to make payments in Bitcoin.

Recent sextortion reports have followed two patterns.

Detective Sergeant Rob Gravelle said: “In two cases we’ve had recently, the victims have accepted a social media friend request from an unknown person, and started to chat with them.

“The offender has then asked the victim to engage in a video chat, with intimate photos and videos being shared. Following the conversation, a list of demands has been sent to the victim, with threats that if they do not pay, the videos will be sent to family and friends, or posted online.

“One victim reported that the blackmail fee was £1,500, which thankfully they did not pay.

“In two other cases that have been reported over the past month, the victim has been watching pornography online, and received an email containing threats shortly after.

“The offender claimed to have hacked their device and set up a dual screen system where they could record what the victim was watching, as well as what they were doing. The victims were told that the hacker had videos of them, which again would be shared with family and friends.”

Following these recent reports, Dyfed-Powys Police has offered advice to anyone who receives similar threats online.

  • Don’t panic. Stay calm and report it to police immediately. Your case will be taken seriously, it will be dealt with in confidence, and no judgements will be made on your behaviour.
  • Do not pay. In some cases where victims have paid in the hope that the threats will go away, they have continued to receive demands. If you have already paid, check if the money has been collected. If it has, and you are able to, make a note of where it was collected. If it hasn’t then you can cancel the payment – and the quicker the better.
  • Do not communicate with the offender. Take screenshots of any conversations, deactivate the social media account they contacted you on and use online reporting processes to report the matter to the social media platform. Deactivating the account, rather than shutting it down, will ensure data is preserved and will assist police in obtaining evidence.

DS Gravelle continued: “The most important aspect in investigations of this kind is the safeguarding and support we offer to victims. People in this position feel embarrassed and vulnerable, and we need to ensure they are offered support, or know where to go to receive it.

“We urge all victims to report incidents to police – you are not alone, and by taking that step you could help prevent other people from becoming victims.”

To report blackmail or sextortion to Dyfed-Powys Police call 101. If you are at immediate threat of harm, always call 999.

To keep your online accounts as safe as possible, never use the same password for multiple accounts and make sure you change passwords regularly. Visit www.getsafeonline.org for more online security advice.

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Drink driver was twice the limit

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A 46-YEAR-OLD man appeared before magistrates at Llanelli Law Court on Thursday (Nov 8) to face a charge of drink driving.

Matthew Francis of Gelli Deg, Llanelli, pleaded guilty to driving his Ford Focus in Llanelli on October 19, whilst over the drink drive limit.

Prosecutor, Sharon Anderson, said: “At 10.20pm police received a call from a member of the public. They were directed to his home address and found the vehicle of the driveway with Francis in the driver seat, and the keys in the ignition.

“He had driven back from a wedding and said he had 3-4 cans. He was arrested and later said he had 6-8 cans of lager and had placed the cans in the garden. Police checked the garden but there was nothing there.

“At half past midnight, Francis completed the intoxiliser and was found to have 70mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath. He was spoken to in an interview and said the van was his and nobody else was insured.”

Magistrates fined Francis £120 and ordered him to pay £30 victim surcharge and £85 prosecution costs. He was also disqualified from driving for 17 months.

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Police operation to get uninsured drivers off the road

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THIS week Dyfed-Powys Police along with other forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be taking part in Operation Drive Insured, in a week of enhanced operations to remove uninsured drivers from UK roads and help protect road users.

Uninsured drivers are often involved in a wide range of criminal activities. Every year the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) Police Helpline records hundreds of incidents where an uninsured driver is found without a valid driving licence or using an untaxed or stolen vehicle. Records also show a number of offenders are caught driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Drivers without insurance are more dangerous than insured drivers and cause a high number of accidents. One contributing factor is because those driving with insurance are encouraged to display safer behaviour and meet road legal requirements to help keep policy costs down.

In 2017 MIB received 11,000 claims from victims of uninsured drivers, with hundreds of people who had suffered catastrophic, life-changing injuries.

MIB supports victims of uninsured and hit and run drivers by providing a last resort for claims and compensation. The annual cost to compensate victims of uninsured drivers comes to over £100 million and is funded by the motor insurance premiums of all law-abiding motorists.

Neil Drane, Head of Enforcement at MIB, said: “A driver with no valid insurance has no legal right to be on the road and removing them undoubtedly makes roads safer. The increased activity during Operation Drive Insured should get more of these drivers off our roads.”

Using data from the Motor Insurance Database (MID) – a central record of all UK motor insurance policies – police are using ANPR cameras to easily identify and stop motorists that appear to be uninsured. MIB’s police helpline supports roadside officers by investigating further and liaising with insurers to confirm whether there is valid insurance in place or not.

Any driver found without insurance during Operation Drive Insured is likely to have their vehicle seized, get six points on their licence, a £300 fine and could face court prosecution. Police also plan to carry out checks for a range of additional road traffic offences.

Simon Hills, Inspector for roads policing operations at Thames Valley Police, said: “In my experience, drivers who willingly use vehicles without insurance are often committing secondary offences. These range in seriousness from minor road traffic offences, to driving whilst disqualified and other crimes such as drug dealing and burglary. The effective enforcement of uninsured vehicles allows us to deny criminals the use of the road and prevent further offending. Operation Drive Insured is a perfect opportunity for us to target our resources.”

If a member of the public suspects a person is driving without insurance, they can report it to their local police force or anonymously to CrimeStoppers.

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Llanelli’s Schaeffler plant in Bynea seems to have been decided says Labour

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THE FATE of Llanelli’s Schaeffler plant in Bynea seems to have been decided, Llanelli’s local Labour representatives concluded after meeting the management of the German manufacturing firm in an early morning meeting in the town on Friday (Nov 9).

Llanelli MP Nia Griffith, Assembly Member Lee Waters and Bynea Councillor Deryk Cundy met with Senior Vice President Dr Thomas Cebulla and Greig Littlefair, Schaeffler’s UK managing director, to discuss this week’s announcement that 220 jobs were under threat at the old INA Bearings plant.

“Very concerningly, in spite of our entreaties, it seems that their minds are made up,” Nia Griffith MP said.

Ms Griffith added: “They stressed to us that the demand for the tappets being made in Llanelli has fallen, and is expected to drop drastically as the product comes to the end of its life and as demand for diesel engines reduces, and the new turbo charged product has not enjoyed the take up that had been hoped for.”

Lee Waters AM said: “The managers told us that Schaeffler is a very big global organisation with 72 factories worldwide and that the Llanelli closure is part of a global consolidation. They said it was no reflection on Llanelli workforce but a reaction to the change in demand for the product made in Bynea”

Deryk Cundy, the Councillor for the Bynea ward of Llanelli where the plant is based, said: “We told them that we will do all we can to work with the Welsh Government and Carmarthenshire Council to offer help if that would make a difference, but we were not encouraged by their response. It seems that their minds are made up.”

The Schaeffler executives stressed that Brexit was a consideration but not the decisive factor in this decision, pointing out that “we are a global business and global businesses want open borders and open trade”. They said Schaeffler had brought forward plans to consolidate their sites because of the uncertainty of the Brexit process.

Llanelli’s MP and AM have both called for the UK Government to prioritise giving business certainty in the Brexit negotiations.

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