The Philippine government warned Saturday criminal groups involved in "sextortion" activities that authorities will go after them.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte issued the statement after 58 people, all Filipinos and mostly males, were arrested in simultaneous operations in northern Philippines last April 30 for their alleged involvement in the illegal activities.
"The apprehension of the 58 suspects allegedly involved in sextortion activities is a product of our continued coordination with other law enforcement agencies like the Interpol ( International Police). We hope that this sends a strong message that we do not tolerate exploitation in our shores," she said.
She said that Philippine authorities will continue to go after these groups.
At the same time, Valte reminded Filipinos to be aware of the modus operandi to avoid falling victims.
In doing the extortion activities, a suspect would befriend possible victim online and once they become close, the victim would be asked to conduct sexual activities, which would then be recorded by the suspect. The suspect would then extort money between 500 U.S. dollars to 2,000 dollars from the victim in exchange of not posting the sex video online.
According to ACG, the suspects will be charged for violating the newly implemented anti-cybercrime law, anti-child pornography act, robbery, and extortion, among others.
The 58 people were arrested in simultaneous operations in Bicol Region, and provinces of Laguna and Bulacan, and Taguig City in Metro Manila on April 30.
Of those apprehended, 52 came from Bicol, specifically in Camarines Sur and Albay provinces, three from Bulacan, and three from Laguna-Taguig City, Philippine National Police-Anti- Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) said.
Authorities also confiscated 250 pieces of electronic devices, such as mobile phones, laptops, desktop computers, cameras and several automated-teller machine (ATM) cards, allegedly used by the suspects in their illegal activities.
"Be cautious about people you meet online. Revealing personal details online is extremely risky and may not to be who they seem to be, because there are lot of fake accounts online," said PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima.
"Scammers often seek soft targets so they move on if you do not respond, just block their e-mails and their accounts and cease all contacts with the scammer. If ever you encounter this kind of scam, save the scammer's details, e-mails, comment threads, or any other evidence you have of them and the extortion attempt," he added.
The International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO-Interpol), launched the Case Operational Plan (COPlan) "Strike Back," a campaign against the prevalence of sex extortion activities in the Philippines in coordination with the government's different agencies, such as the PNP-ACG, Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission, and the Department of Justice.
The Police Scotland, Hong Kong Police, Singapore Police, U.S. Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), Child Exploitation Online Protection (CEOP) and Australian Federal Police also helped.