Online exploitation involves people using digital methods to exploit others. There are many ways this could happen, including following or befriending people on social media and online chat or game sites to exploit them, or targeting them through online scams and cybercrime. 

People may be encouraged to take part in harmful activities, or hand over money or other items of value. Someone may be influencing their views and actions, or grooming them into a friendship or sexual relationship. They may be given gifts, money or a sense of value or importance.


What are the risks online?

  • You don’t always know who you’re talking to online. Unless you know someone in real life it’s difficult to be sure the person you’re messaging is really who you think they are.
  • Social media is ‘always on’ and you can feel bombarded by messages and pressure to keep responding. This can be used to watch, coerce and control what you do.
  • Sharing images – if you don’t know who you’re talking to you don’t know who you’re sending an image to – perpetrators may pressure you to share personal information or images that they can use for their own gain or as a form of control and manipulation.
  • Information about you online – perpetrators will use any information you’ve shared about yourself publicly to get to know you and pretend to be a friend you can trust.

What are the signs to look out for?

Signs that someone is being groomed and exploited may include some of the following:

  • Becoming more secretive, especially around internet use
  • Spending increasing amounts of time communicating with, or talking about, friends met online
  • Becoming withdrawn and isolated from family and friends
  • Changes in appearance, interests, views or behaviour
  • Receiving a large number of calls or messages
  • Receiving gifts or money online
  • Signs of having spent or lost money, including difficulty affording everyday items or evidence of making payments to a person or company

Remember, online exploitation can happen to anyone.

Where can you go for help?

If you are concerned that you, or someone you know, is being groomed or exploited get help now:

If you are concerned about someone’s safety or welfare contact:

You can report concerns and suspicions to the police by calling 101, or anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling 0800 555 111.

If you are concerned that someone you know is being radicalised you can email or call 01392 225130

If you feel there is an immediate threat to life, call 999.

You can find more information and support about specific types of online exploitation on the following links:

The NSPCC website has lots of useful information for parents and carers about online safety. The NSPCC also offer free support and guidance through their helpline on 0808 800 5000