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Police issue online blackmail advice after rise in cases

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

That’s the advice given to victims of online blackmail who are faced with demands to pay up to $1,900 or the threat that intimate photos and videos will be shared.

Dyfed-Powys Police has offered the guidance after recording four reports of online blackmail over the past month. Victims are being contacted through email or social media, with demands to make payments in Bitcoin.

The recent reports have followed two patterns.

Detective Chief Inspector Estelle Hopkin Davies 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.

DCI Hopkin Davies  said: “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.

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Jail after heroin worth £45,000 seized

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AN ABERYSTYWYTH woman has been jailed, and an organised crime gang disrupted, after heroin worth £45,000 was found at her home.

Dyfed-Powys Police found more than 400g of the class A drug during a warrant at Susan Marie Proffitt’s home – resulting in one of the force’s largest single seizures of heroin in Ceredigion.

The result has disrupted an active organised crime gang supplying class A drugs to the area.

Sergeant Steven Jones said: “This swift and thorough investigation involved officers and staff from departments across the division, who worked together to secure this result.

“The defendant had a huge amount of heroin at her home, with efforts taken to conceal bags of the drug around the property.

“There is no doubt that in taking Proffitt out of the supply chain we will have disrupted an organised crime gang which she was a trusted part of in supplying heroin into the division.”

Officers carried out a warrant at the 52-year-old’s home in South Road on August 30, 2020.

On searching the property, a box containing 408g of heroin was found concealed in a vent under the staircase, and two further wraps were found in a shower head bracket. Fingerprint marks matching those of Proffitt were found on these items.

Four mobile phones were also seized from the property.

Sgt Jones said: “The quantity of heroin recovered is far in excess of what he would expect to see someone who is simply a user to be in possession of for their own use.

“Given the value of the heroin recovered and the financial circumstances of the defendant, we were confident it was unlikely she would be able to fund a purchase of such a quantity of heroin without being involved in the supply of drugs.

“The only realistic reason for possessing this quantity of heroin was for supply onto others.”

Proffitt was charged with possession with intent to supply, and pleaded guilty. She was sentenced to 57 months in prison when she appeared at Swansea Crown Court on Thursday, November 26.

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New permanent walk-in test centre opens in Aberystwyth

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PEOPLE in Aberystwyth with symptoms of COVID-19 now have access to a permanent walk-in testing facility.

Hywel Dda University Health Board has arranged for a Local Testing Site (LTS) to be located inside the former Padarn Nursery building, (behind, but not connected to, Padarn Surgery), on Penglais Road.

Local people should avoid using the nearby nursery car park, leaving it free for those people accessing tests to park there. People who attend the walk-in centre must wear a face covering.

Meanwhile, the drive-through facility at Canolfan Rheidol has now been relocated to Cardigan in response to a rise in cases in that area. Residents of Aberystwyth will not be impacted by this move as there is plenty of testing capacity at the LTS.

Alison Shakeshaft, Director of Therapies & Health Science at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “We are very pleased to have secured this LTS for the people of Aberystwyth. Many residents in the town, including students, do not have their own private vehicle in order to access drive-through testing facilities, so the option of a walk-in facility is very important.

“This is a challenging time and I urge everyone to remain vigilant and follow the rules, including wearing face coverings where required, maintain social distancing, washing hands regularly, or using a hand sanitiser if hand washing is not possible.”

Anyone who has symptoms of the virus (a new persistent cough, high temperature or loss/change of taste or smell) must book a test as soon as possible.  This can be done through the online UK portal at www.gov.wales/coronavirus.

University students with COVID-19 symptoms, when booking a test, are required to provide their local address in Aberystwyth.

Please do not book a test if you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and do not attend testing centres without booking first as you will not be seen without an appointment.

Please follow the latest self-isolation guidelines which can be found here.

For the latest news and updated from Hywel Dda University Health Board visit https://hduhb.nhs.wales/

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Improvements required at a pub in Devil’s Bridge

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A HOSPITALITY business in Devil’s Bridge has been required to make improvements to safeguard the public’s health and well-being as part of the coronavirus regulations.

A Premises Improvement Notice has been served to The Hafod, Devil’s Bridge, Aberystwyth by Ceredigion County Council’s Public Protection Officers due to non-compliance with The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 4) (Wales) Regulations 2020.

As part of the Premises Improvement Notice, the Premises must ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between any persons on the premises, and put measures in place which limit close face to face interaction and maintain hygiene. 

These measures will need to be implemented by 17:00 on November 27, 2020. The full notice can be seen on the Council’s website under Improvement and Closure Notices.

Information for businesses is available on the Council’s website under Supporting Ceredigion’s Economy.

Any business who is unsure of their responsibilities is urged to check the Welsh Government website

Any business that requires further information or guidance can contact the council’s Licensing Team on 01545 570881 or clic@ceredigion.gov.uk.

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