Gardaí investigating an ongoing scam in which young people are coerced into paying blackmail money over explicit images have urged victims to report the crime immediately, and not to delete any relevant evidence.
In a number of separate cases in Meath over the past few weeks, teenagers were given demands for thousands of euros to stop explicit images of them from being shared online and with friends and family.
“It has been going on for a number of years now, it is a pure scam - the way it starts is the same in all of them.
"It starts with a completely innocent friend request and then it progresses very quickly," said Crime prevention officer Sergeant Dean Kerins.
The targets of the scam are most often young men in their late teens.
Initially, the victim receives a friend request on a social media platform from a pretty stranger.
An automated conversation then ensues and the young person is sent a naked picture from the 'girl', who asks for one in return.
If the target sends one back, the scammer then demands thousands of euro and threatens to post the images online and send them to family members if money is not paid.
Sgt Kerins said demands as high as €8,000 have been made in at least one instance.
"These young men are worried sick that the images will appear online but thankfully, all of them had the sense not to pay and raise the alarm," he said.
Sgt Kerins said anyone who gets a friend request from a stranger, who then progresses very quickly to sending inappropriate or sexual images, "should be thinking scam straight away and not fall for this.”
Speaking on, Sgt Kerins urged anyone targeted not to share the information.
"Don’t pay the money, seek help, don't delete evidence. Block the number and report to us, we will be there to help them out,” he said.
Sgt Kerins said people refuse to believe that scams like this happen in Ireland.
"People put their lives on social media these days without even thinking of the consequences down the line in terms of security.
"Everyone needs to be mindful of what they are posting and who they are talking to on social media."