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Safe Internet helpline sees sextortion cases spike

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An annual increase of 47.97% was recorded in mainly cybercrime incidents addressed to the Internet Safety Helpline 1480, said the Education Ministry.

In Q2 2023, there was a notable increasing trend in the reporting of sexual blackmail (sextortion) (31 incidents, 2.8%), which increased by 25.8% compared to Q1 2023 (21 incidents) and by 61.3% compared to 2022 (12 incidents).

The 1480 Helpline provides counselling and support services to children, adolescents, young people, parents, teachers, and the wider community, regarding the safe, responsible and ethical use of the Internet and digital technologies.

From April to June, 1,098 people contacted the Helpline.

Out of the total number of calls, 283 (25.79%) were not related to the services provided by Helpline 1480.

The cases related to the Helpline have increased by 38.4% compared to Q1 2023, while they have almost doubled since last year, with an increase of 47.97 % (815 incidents in 2023 compared to 424 incidents in 2022).

Regarding the 815 incidents, 60.12% (490 persons) were female, and 39.88% (325) were male.

The majority, 96.69%, who called for help and support were adults (788 people).

Only 19 callers, i.e., 2.33%, were minors (under 18), reporting their personal difficulties while using the  Internet.

In addition, seven calls (0.9%) were received from parents/guardians who referred to online difficulties faced by children.

The majority of requests were cybercrime incidents, 392 (35.8%), i.e. dealing with breach of privacy (hacking), financial fraud or identity theft via social networks or email.

At the same time, a significant number of calls to 1480 related to issues falling under the category of technical support, 263 (23.9%).

Figures show that 94 requests (8.6%) concerned data privacy complaints and specifically cases of caller information being used to create accounts or illegally disclose caller material by other users.

Citizens can contact the Helpline anonymously and free of charge (Monday – Friday, 9.00 – 13.00 & 15:00 – 18:00, and Saturday, 10:00 – 13:00 ) or by sending an email to [email protected] as well as via chat (https://www.cybersafety.cy/helpline-chat).