With cybercriminals, hackers, and blackmailers always on the prowl for their next victim, UAE residents are urged to be mindful of their online activity. The Abu Dhabi Police on Thursday issued an advisory warning the community of potential dangers associated with social media use.

Got a friend request from someone you do not know? Do not accept, the police stressed. Private photos and videos should not be published or shared with random Netizens, too.

These practices, the authorities said, put people at risk of blackmail and extortion.

Beware of dating sites and apps, too, they added, as cybercriminals often use these platforms to find victims.

The Abu Dhabi Police also noted seven factors and common mistakes that make residents prone to extortion:

  • Visiting suspicious websites
  • Social media addiction
  • Parents' failure to monitor, take care of youngsters
  • Weak religious faith
  • Drifting behind fake relationships
  • Emotional emptiness
  • Feelings of neglect

Explaining how blackmailing and extortion are usually carried out, the Abu Dhabi Police said criminals would threaten victims that they will publish their private photos or videos if they don't give in to their demands — which often involves sums of money. Other victims are forced to take part in illegal activities, too, the authorities added.

In some cases, the blackmailers would connect with the potential victim and invite him or her to a live broadcast. "Once the victim opens his/her camera, the criminal can easily capture some footage of the person in an immoral situation," the Abu Dhabi Police said. This can then be used for extortion.

What to do when caught in this situation

Those who fall victim to such rackets are advised to be firm and not give in to the threats. Do not send money, the police stressed. Instead, report the incident anonymously by contacting the police through the 24/7 Aman service. They may call the toll-free number 8002626 (AMAN2626) or send an SMS to 2828.

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