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Police issue sextortion advice following online blackmail incidents

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DON’T panic. Don’t communicate. Don’t pay.

That’s the advice given to victims of online blackmail after Bitcoin payments spark sextortion fears.

Victims are faced with demands to pay, or the threat that intimate photos and videos will be shared.

Dyfed-Powys Police has offered the guidance after receiving reports of suspicious transactions involving the digital currency Bitcoin.

Victims are usually contacted through email or social media, with demands to make payments in Bitcoin.

Recent sextortion reports have followed two patterns.

Detective Sergeant Rob Gravelle said: “In two cases we’ve had recently, the victims have accepted a social media friend request from an unknown person, and started to chat with them.

“The offender has then asked the victim to engage in a video chat, with intimate photos and videos being shared. Following the conversation, a list of demands has been sent to the victim, with threats that if they do not pay, the videos will be sent to family and friends, or posted online.

“One victim reported that the blackmail fee was £1,500, which thankfully they did not pay.

“In two other cases that have been reported over the past month, the victim has been watching pornography online, and received an email containing threats shortly after.

“The offender claimed to have hacked their device and set up a dual screen system where they could record what the victim was watching, as well as what they were doing. The victims were told that the hacker had videos of them, which again would be shared with family and friends.”

Following these recent reports, Dyfed-Powys Police has offered advice to anyone who receives similar threats online.

Don’t panic. Stay calm and report it to police immediately. Your case will be taken seriously, it will be dealt with in confidence, and no judgements will be made on your behaviour.
Do not pay. In some cases where victims have paid in the hope that the threats will go away, they have continued to receive demands. If you have already paid, check if the money has been collected. If it has, and you are able to, make a note of where it was collected. If it hasn’t then you can cancel the payment – and the quicker the better.
Do not communicate with the offender. Take screenshots of any conversations, deactivate the social media account they contacted you on and use online reporting processes to report the matter to the social media platform. Deactivating the account, rather than shutting it down, will ensure data is preserved and will assist police in obtaining evidence.
DS Gravelle continued: “The most important aspect in investigations of this kind is the safeguarding and support we offer to victims. People in this position feel embarrassed and vulnerable, and we need to ensure they are offered support, or know where to go to receive it.

“We urge all victims to report incidents to police – you are not alone, and by taking that step you could help prevent other people from becoming victims.”

To report blackmail or sextortion to Dyfed-Powys Police call 101. If you are at immediate threat of harm, always call 999.

To keep your online accounts as safe as possible, never use the same password for multiple accounts and make sure you change passwords regularly. Visit www.getsafeonline.org for more online security advice.

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£1 billion deal set to solve poor mobile coverage

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BEN LAKE MP has worked with cross-party MPs in recent months on a campaign calling for a Shared Rural Network to extend mobile rural coverage to hard-to-reach areas.

On Friday, 25 October, a £1bn plan between the UK’s four main mobile phone companies and the UK Government was unveiled with the aim of banishing these signal dead zones. The proposed deal – which includes EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – promises to get 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025.

The new plans for all operators to share phone masts to improve UK coverage is a world first. It will mean EE, O2, Three and Vodafone will invest £530 million in a network of new and existing phone masts they would all share and which any mobile user can access, and which would be supported by £500 million investment from the UK Government.

72 cross party MPs, including Ben Lake, wrote to the then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright MP asking him to support a Shared Rural Network which would significantly improve rural coverage and enhance economic, educational and leisure opportunities in rural areas.

Mr Lake said “This is fantastic news. It will make a huge difference to so many people in my constituency where, in some areas, there is no mobile coverage at all. It will put an end to the frustration felt by thousands of people who currently feel cut off and mean people will get good mobile signal on the go wherever they live, work or travel and it will have a big impact on the local economy.

“I was glad to have the opportunity to meet with the Secretary of State to press the case for allowing newly constructed Home Office masts to be utilised as part of this new programme, something that would expedite progress in areas such as Ceredigion.”

The current Digital Secretary, Nicky Morgan said “We are determined to make sure no part of the country is left behind when it comes to mobile connectivity. We are closing in on a deal with the mobile network operators so those living in rural areas will be able to get the fast and reliable mobile coverage they need and deserve. Brokering an agreement for mast sharing between networks alongside new investment in mobile infrastructure will mean people get good 4G signal no matter where they are or which provider they’re with.”

A final agreement between UK Government and the mobile industry is expected early next year.

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Successful first year for the Childcare offer

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PARENTS of 400 Ceredigion children have taken advantage of the Childcare Offer in its first year. The scheme has been running in Ceredigion since September 2018 and has saved parents almost £850,000 in childcare costs so far.

The Childcare Offer for Wales is a Welsh Government funded scheme, which provides 3 and 4 year olds with a combination of 30 hours of Foundation Phase Nursery education and childcare. The offer is available to working parents of three and four year olds for up to 48 weeks of the year.

To be eligible, a child must be aged three or four and the parent or guardian must earn the equivalent of at least 16 hours at national living wage or national minimum wage; or receive specific caring benefits.

Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services. She said, “It’s great to see that the Childcare Offer is having such an impact across Ceredigion in the first year. The Childcare Offer is not only a fantastic opportunity for parents, but it is also an opportunity to provide better sustainability for childcare providers.”

A dedicated team of staff has been developed within the Ceredigion County Council to administer the offer in the county and on behalf of Carmarthenshire, Powys and Pembrokeshire county councils. Ceredigion County Council is the delivery authority which processes all parent applications and deal with payments to childcare providers.

The cost of childcare can be a significant burden for working parents. A scheme like this has really made a difference to families’ financial situation. One parent who has taken advantage of the offer said, “It’s helped us quite a bit. There was a bit of work to do to set it up and find the paperwork, but once that was all done, it was really easy. All you have to do is take the child to the childcare setting each day and pick them up at the end of the day!”

“The Childcare Offer has meant that the money we’ve saved through the offer has enabled us to give our children other experiences.”

The application form for parents and carers to apply for the Childcare Offer is available on the Ceredigion County Council website: https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/children-young-people-services/childcare/childcare-offer-for-wales/childcare-offer-application-form/

Childcare Offer applications for children born between 1 September 2016 and 31 December 2016 can be submitted from 4 November 2019.
As part of the application process, parents/carers will need to provide the following evidence:

· Copy of child’s birth certificate
· Proof of address (latest Council Tax Bill or an utility bill dated within the last 3 months
· Last three months’ payslips for all applicants,
· Or, if self-employed a copy of your most recent self-assessment tax return form. Alternatively, if you are relatively new self-employed person provide proof of your Unique Tax Reference number from HMRC.

Parents or childcare providers in Ceredigion who require further information should contact the Ceredigion Childcare Unit on 01545 570881

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Environmentally friendly electric sweepers replace old diesel models

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CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL has replaced old diesel street sweepers with new electric powered models.

The new electric sweepers replace diesel ones which have been in use for many years and had come to the end of their useful life. The new sweepers will mainly be used in Ceredigion’s town centres to help keep the streets clean. The electric sweepers will be better for the environment and will be cheaper to operate.

Councillor Dafydd Edwards, is the Cabinet Member responsible for Highways and Environmental Services together with Housing. He said: “These new sweepers will be of great benefit in supporting the efforts of our Street Cleaning Team to keep Ceredigion’s towns clean. As part of Caru Ceredigion everyone can play their part in this by dealing with their waste including litter, cigarette ends and dog waste responsibly and legally. This would be a huge help in keeping Ceredigion clean and ensuring it remains a great place to visit, live and work as well as maintaining the positive profile it deserves.”

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