Muscat: Omanis continue to fall victim to cyber blackmail despite the intensive campaigns launched by the Royal Oman Police (ROP) and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) to curb the trend.
This year alone, 161 cyber blackmailing cases have been registered, according to the TRA. Forty-five per cent of those cases included sexual and financial blackmail, and 90 per cent of the victims were male. By contrast, only two such cases were reported in 2011 and 2012, five in 2013, 17 in 2014 and 84 cases in 2015.
The TRA launched a two-week campaign on Tuesday entitled ‘Report and your secret will be kept in a well’ assuring victims of confidentiality. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the dangers of cyber blackmail crimes.
An official at the TRA believes that the actual number of female victims of cyber extortion may be higher as many women are hesitant to report scammers due to the fear of social stigma and embarrassment.
The official added that most of the criminals operate from outside the country and are hard to reach, while fraudsters in Oman can be arrested in less than 24 hours.
“Anyone who falls victim to sexual cyber blackmail must report it to the police immediately through hotline 24166828 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org,” he said.
A 26-year-old man who did not want his name revealed told Gulf News that he was blackmailed by a friend after he shared with him intimate pictures of himself with women two years ago. “He threatened me to disseminate the photos on social media platforms following a dispute between us,” he said. He added that he reported the case to the ROP, which led to his friend’s arrest and jailing.
Last year, an Omani was found guilty of posting revealing pictures of his girlfriend on photo sharing app Instagram and was sentenced to one month in jail and fined 2,000 rials, half of which was awarded to his ex-girlfriend as compensation.
The man admitted to posting the pictures in anger after the couple had a fight.
Article 16 of Oman’s cyber law stipulates that anyone who publishes news or pictures of someone’s private life can be jailed for up to three years and fined up to 2,000 rials.