“If you set up fake accounts to harass others, we will find you and we will take action.”
This was the stark warning to cyber bullies across the Humberside Force area, who also urged victims to come forward.
The move follows an increase in reports of offenders setting up fake accounts in the name of others, with the intention of either harassing or causing distress to their victims.
In some cases, the accounts are set up by former partners, who either post or threaten to post explicit pictures of their victims.
Others have seen offenders setting up accounts in the name of deceased friends or family of their intended victims.
Detective Inspector Rich Osgerby said: “This kind of offence can cause huge distress to victims and it is something that we take very seriously and will investigate thoroughly.”
There are a number of ways in which this kind of offending can be dealt with, from formal prosecution to restorative justice.
This was the method employed in the case of a Bridlington man who set up a fake Facebook profile in the name of his ex-partner following the breakdown of their relationship.
He also sent his victim numerous text messages, threatening to post sexually explicit pictures on the account.
After the incident was reported to police, the offender admitted his offending – though he claimed he had no intention of actually posting the pictures online.
He and the victim agreed that restorative justice was the best course of action. As part of the agreement, he deleted the photographs in the presence of an officer, wrote a letter of apology to the victim and deleted the account.
DI Osgerby also emphasised the importance of prevention, adding: “It is believed that 90 per cent of all cyber crime could be prevented by taking a few simple precautions.
“One of the most important things to remember is that no matter how close you are to someone, things may change in the future and there is always a risk of any intimate pictures or videos being shared with others – usually when relationships have ended.
“If you are targeted, don’t respond to threats. Gather evidence of the posts, by taking screen shots and then report it both to police and the site where the video or pictures have been posted, asking for them to be removed and the offender’s user account can be blocked.”
For more advice, visit Get Safe Online or the Humberside Police Cyber Security: Has It Clicked? pages.