Gardaí have urged people not to engage with the sender of a damaging scam circulating among secondary school students via WhatsApp.
The message is understood to be an attempt to blackmail unsuspecting victims by threatening to circulate intimate photos of the recipient online, however, the images are fake.
Garda John Finnerty of Henry Street Garda station in Limerick city advised people to be on guard if they receive such a message and to report it to gardaí who will try to locate the sender.
“This pertains to some students receiving inappropriate WhatsApp messages from an unknown number or from an unknown account on social media.
"The message says that the sender has inappropriate photos of the student,” Garda Finnerty explained.
“The sender may send photos which have been doctored to appear to show the student, however, the photo of the student may have been lifted from a social media account such as Instagram.
“The student is then told to pay money to the sender or the sender will send the photo to everyone in their Instagram account. In effect, the student is being threatened with blackmail.”
Garda Finnerty added there are a number of options available to anyone who has fallen victim to the scam, but warned recipients should “not respond to [the message] and do not arrange to pay money to the scammer”.
“Tell your parents or guardians and the school, report the matter to the Gardaí. Screenshot any message that you receive and then delete the message immediately and block unknown numbers.”
Garda Finnerty also advised: “If you do receive photos from an unknown source showing a friend in a compromising situation, follow the same guidelines.”