Online Sense is ICDL Arabia's philanthropic arm aimed at raising public awareness on Cyber Safety.

Are you a social butterfly who takes pride in a large circle of Facebook friends? You might want to be really cautious while accepting friend requests from strangers! Doing so might expose you to a terrifying experience of blackmailing.

Dubai Police revealed last week that it has investigated 83 cases of harassment on Facebook so far this year. These cases have been registered in just 10 months, while the number of such cases in the whole of 2014, 2015, and 2016 was much lower (87, 80 and 66 respectively).

Many of these cases were related to blackmail, involving theft of private or sexual images and videos saved on devices or social media accounts. People in the age group of 26 to 36 seem to be most vulnerable targets, while teenagers were also blackmailed in a few cases.

The urgency of this issue has prompted Dubai Police to start an awareness campaign to stop the blackmailing spree. Soon, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) will conduct lectures and show short videos to remind people of the risks of trusting strangers on social media.

According to Lt Col Mohammed Aqeel, deputy director of CID, cases of blackmailing can be of various types, depending on the purpose of the blackmailer. In some cases, blackmailers demand money; this type of extortion is usually done against men. Other types of blackmailing can be forcing people to commit or not commit an act.

“Some victims are being blackmailed after releasing photographs or videos of a sexual nature,” Major Saud Mohammed Al Khalidi, from the force’s Cybercrime Division, said in a report published by The National.

Police urged victims of blackmail or cybercrime to report such cases immediately, and never concede to blackmailers’ demands. Rest assured that strict action will be taken against the perpetrators – it can as imprisonment for 10 years.