MANILA: Dozens of people have been arrested in the Philippines in a multinational crackdown on the exploding global menace of Internet “sextortion”, Interpol and local police announced on Friday.

Industrial-style businesses run out of the Philippines have blackmailed hundreds of people around the world, luring them on social media before extracting sexually explicit information or images, they said.

Interpol cybercrime chief Sanjay Virmani said 58 people were arrested this week in the Philippines, but emphasised they were only a small part of a fast-growing phenomenon with similar operations in many other parts of the world.

“The scale of these sextortion networks is massive, and run with just one goal in mind: to make money regardless of the terrible emotional damage they inflict on their victims,” said Virmani, director of Interpol’s Digital Crime Centre.

Virmani said “sextortion” had emerged as a major concern in recent years as criminals took advantage of more people using social media and greater mobile Internet access via smartphones. “This is just a taste of things to come,” Virmani said.

“These type of criminal acts have gone on for a long time but they are using a new infrastructure...all the traditional crimes that you see that have a cyber component are taken to a new level and criminals have an increased capability to target new victims.

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