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Police issue online blackmail advice after rise in cases

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

That’s the advice given to victims of online blackmail who are faced with demands to pay up to $1,900 or the threat that intimate photos and videos will be shared.

Dyfed-Powys Police has offered the guidance after recording four reports of online blackmail over the past month. Victims are being contacted through email or social media, with demands to make payments in Bitcoin.

The recent reports have followed two patterns.

Detective Chief Inspector Estelle Hopkin Davies 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.

DCI Hopkin Davies  said: “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.

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Business offer Welsh Government help in ‘non-essential’ shopping row

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THIS morning (Tuesday, October 27), the Wales Retail Consortium, CBI Wales and Association of Convenience stores presented the Welsh Government joint recommendation to resolve the confusion over non-essential items.

The three industry bodies’ statement expresses the hope that the Welsh Government, ‘will agree to these recommendations and the people of Wales can refocus all their energies on respecting the Fire Break’.

The recommendations come in response to confused and confusing messaging from the Welsh Government, which allowed its public health message to be drowned out over the weekend by rows over whether toasters, Lee Childs novels, and size 16 jeans were essential items for customers. The confusion was not helped by a mistaken tweet by supermarket giant Tesco which claimed women’s period products were not essential items when they are and always have been.

The WRC, CBI Wales and ACS believe their recommendations will fulfil retail’s role in tackling the spread of the virus while allowing for discretion to be used on an individual basis – as recommended by Health Minister Vaughan Gething in a tense press conference yesterday, http://pembrokeshire-herald.com/61929/welsh-health-minister-defends-retail-restrictions/.

The business bodies recommend:

  • To limit the spread of the virus and allow for individual discretion, retailers will prominently display Welsh Government approved signage in front of known non-essential items and in communal areas. The signage will make clear the government’s regulation and the need to abide by it.
  • This message will be reinforced through in-store announcements and social media messaging. Advising customers to put off non-essential purchases
  • We recommend the individual customer is trusted to make their own decision as to whether a product is non-essential or not, taking into account the notices displayed throughout the store and their immediate needs
  • If the customer goes ahead with the purchase of the item the final liability ought to rest with the customer
  • Retailers will remove special in-store promotional displays of non-essential items in order to minimise browsing and avoid triggering a non-essential purchase.
  • These recommendations would mean non-essential items are not removed from shelves – or cordoned off in stores – but large notices are placed in front of the products and in communal spaces informing customers of the Welsh Government’s regulations and the Welsh public are trusted to make the right decision.

They also say they ‘look forward to engaging with Welsh Government again this morning and we hope consensus can be reached’.

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Llanelli Christmas Carnival goes online

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Preparations are underway to host the first ever virtual Llanelli Christmas Carnival. 

The carnival will go digital for the first time in its 42-year history due to the Covid-19 pandemic and in line with current Welsh Government guidance and increasing concerns about the spread of coronavirus linked to large gatherings. 

Whilst there won’t be the usual street parade, people will be able to get into the festive spirit from the comfort of their own home. 

The online celebration will be hosted as an event on Discover Carmarthenshire’s Facebook page on Friday, November 13. 

Over the years, thousands of people have been involved in the Llanelli Christmas Carnival – either dressing up to enter a float in the parade, volunteering, or simply enjoying the atmosphere with generations of their families. 

They can still get involved this year by sharing photos and video to help people celebrate good memories and help others reminisce about carnivals gone by. 

There will be a broadcast of music from talented local performers who would usually sing from the main stage, and people will still be able to countdown to the switch-on of the town’s Christmas lights. 

The largest Christmas carnival in Wales, Llanelli’s festive celebrations are a joint effort by Carmarthenshire County Council, Llanelli Town Council, Llanelli Rural Council and Llanelli Round Table. 

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “It’s very unfortunate that we can’t hold Llanelli Christmas Carnival this year, but we’re determined to keep the spirit of the carnival alive. Let’s come together and celebrate one of the biggest events in Wales from the comfort of our homes – celebrate with generations of memories and look forward to a bigger and better carnival next year.” 

Sign up to attend Llanelli’s first virtual Christmas carnival – visit facebook.com/discovercarmarthenshire 

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Free Community Crime Prevention Kits to be distributed in Llanelli area

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OVER the coming weeks, residents from both the Ty Isha and Glanymor areas in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, will receive free crime prevention kits that will aim to deter offenders and make both communities safer.

The prevention kits have been purchased through funding that was secured from the Home Office’s Safer Street Fund by Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn.

The funding of £195,673 that was secured by Mr Llywelyn will go towards measures proven to cut crime, and will include employing two Community Wardens; purchase of SelectaDNA kits, Community crime prevention activity support, Environmental improvements and Community Crime Prevention kits.

SelectaDNA kits and Bike register kits are two of the Community Prevention kits that will be distributed to residents within the local communities over coming weeks.

The SelectaDNA kits are property marking kits that include a unique formula of DNA, UV tracer and microdots, which people can use to mark their valuable household items, so that if stolen, police are able to trace them. 

Similarly, the bike register kits include stickers, frame markings and microdots to uniquely identify a bike.  Users can add descriptions and photos to ensure that in the event of a theft, their bicycle can be easily identified and returned by Police through the BikeRegister Scheme.

Dafydd Llywelyn, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys said, “I am delighted that both these crime prevention kits have been purchased through the Safer Streets funding that I secured earlier this year.  Hopefully, as they are distributed over the coming weeks, we will see that they will have a positive impact within the area.  Criminals know that DNA is the police’s most powerful weapon in convicting criminals therefore the DNA fear-factor is highly understood and acts as a huge deterrent.

“I have invested significantly in the area over recent years with community grants I made available in addition to the new CCTV system that is in place across the town. These new crime prevention kits that have been purchased through the new additional Safer Streets funding will further build upon my work over recent years and I hope the residents will feel a positive difference in their communities.

Both Ty Isha and Glanymor areas are considered to be two of the most deprived areas in Carmarthenshire according to the Welsh Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation. The funding secured will focus on tackling all acquisitive crime such as burglary, vehicle theft and robbery within the identified areas.

PCC Llywelyn added, “Ensuring the security and safety of residents is a priority of mine – everyone deserves to live safely, and free from harm. Acquisitive offences are the crimes that the public are most likely to encounter, and they are estimated to cost society billions of pounds every year. There is strong evidence that these crimes can be prevented by tactics that either remove opportunities to commit crime or act as a deterrent by increasing the chances of an offender being caught. I now look forward to continue working closely with all partners that have supported us with our bid, to tackle these crimes in both areas and to ensure that they become safer environments for community residents.”

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