SEXTORTION schemes are on the rise, with six men in East Lothian having fallen victim to the crime in the last year.

Police are highlighting the illegal practice, which typically involves a victim being encouraged to send nude or explicit photos or videos of themselves to someone who has befriended them online.

The person is then blackmailed into sending money to prevent the images or videos being sent to people they know or elsewhere on the internet.

Many more cases go unreported, with Chief Inspector Neil Mitchell, local area commander for East Lothian, highlighting the practice.

He said: “The best way to stop yourself from becoming a victim is to be very careful about who you befriend online, especially if you are considering sharing anything intimate with them.

“The majority of these crime are perpetrated by organised crime groups from overseas. It’s a low-risk way for them to make money and they can reach victims very easily.

“The victims are also very embarrassed and pay this money to prevent the images being shared.

“However, usually when they are paid they come back asking for more.

"If this has happened to you, don’t panic, you are the victim here. Seek support from family or trusted friends and contact the police.”

The illegal activity was also highlighted by Detective Inspector Laura Dickson, from Lothian and Scottish Borders CID.

She said: “I would appeal to everyone who uses social media to take a few minutes and consider who you believe you are talking to during these exchanges – exchanges which frequently arise from random friend requests through the likes of Facebook, Instagram and dating sites.

"Please also be mindful that once you send any images or videos, they are out there forever, with little chance of us fully recovering them.

"If you find yourself in circumstances where you believe you have been blackmailed or extorted in this way, please contact us on 101 or 999 in an emergency.”