International gangs of organised criminals are targeting more and more young men by luring them into potentially compromising positions, the National Crime Agency said.
The number of people reporting financially-motivated cyber enabled blackmails more than doubled from 385 in 2015 to 864 up to November 2016.
This number has risen from nine in 2011.
Sextortion is a form of blackmail where criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online - using websites such as Facebook, Skype or Linkedin - before persuading them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam.
The images are recorded by the criminals who then threaten to share them with the victims' friends and family unless they accede to their demands for payment.
National Police Chiefs' Council lead for kidnap and extortion and adult sexual offences, Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, said: “It is in response to a really worrying emerging threat in terms of what we call sextortion.
“The really key point is that as a result of this criminality, we have had four young men in the United Kingdom who have killed themselves - taken their own lives - because they saw no way out of a situation that they had gotten into.
“Firstly, we are providing information to police forces to better equip them to deal with these crimes when they are reported.
“Perhaps more important is a public awareness campaign to make not only potential victims, but all those around them - friends of potential victims, family members of potential victims - really raise awareness to what is a very damaging and invidious crime.”
The National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs' Council have launched a new campaign to advise those who have been, or are likely to be, targeted.
It includes a film aimed at the most vulnerable victims, helping them to recognise a potential criminal approach and providing online advice, including the importance of reporting the crime to their local police.
Mr Hewitt continued: “This is organised crime. Whilst the individual cases themselves may involve relatively limited amounts of money, this is being organised by well-equipped, often off-shore organised crime groups that are facilitating this activity.
“And it targets people that are in social chat applications of one description or another, predominantly men, although we have seen some cases with women as the victim.”
The NCA said the victims are aged between 14 and 82, with the highest proportion being men aged between 21 and 30, and with a substantial proportion in the 11-20 age group.
It also added that the groups identified were working out of Morocco, the Philippines and the Ivory Coast.
Last year more than 40 arrests were made in the Philippines, and there is one ongoing international prosecution connected to one of the suicides reported this year.
UK news in pictures
UK news in pictures
1/17 22 June 2017
Cosplay fans (L-R) George Massingham, Abbey Forbes and Karolina Goralik travel by tube dressed in Harry Potter themed costumes, after a visit to one the literary franchise's movie filming locations at Leadenhall Market in London, Britain
2/17 22 June 2017
Racegoers cheer on their horse on Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London
3/17 21 June 2017
A reveller walks among the tipi tents at the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
4/17 20 June 2017
A police officer lays some flowers passed over by a member of the public, close to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after one man died and eight people were taken to hospital and a person arrested after a rental van struck pedestrian
The Borough Market bell is seen in Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
Two women embrace in Borough Market, which officially re-opens today following the recent attack, in central London
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attends the re-opening of Borough market in central London following the June 3 terror attack
People walk through Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, with one of his daughters, visit Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack
A woman reacts in front of a wall of messages in Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack, in central London
Vivenne Westwood walks the runway at the Vivenne Westwood show during the London Fashion Week Men's June 2017 collections
Millwall fan and London Bridge hero Roy Larner on 'Good Morning Britain'
Richard Arnold, Roy Larner, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on 'Good Morning Britain'
14/17 11 June 2017
England players celebrate after defeating Venezuela 1-0 to win the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
15/17 11 June 2017
England players celebrate with the trophy after the final match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017 between Venezuela and England at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
16/17 11 June 2017
Great Britain's Alistair Brownlee celebrates winning the Elite Men Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds
Danny Lawson/PA Wire
17/17 11 June 2017
Two men drink beer outside the Southwark Tavern which reopened for business today next to an entrance to Borough Market which remains closed in London
In one case the victim had been told “your life is over, you may as well go and kill yourself”.
Roy Sinclair, from the NCA, said: “There is huge under-reporting of these kinds of offences, often because victims feel ashamed or embarrassed, but of course criminals are relying on that reaction in order to succeed.”
He added the campaign was aimed at tackling this and that he expected the numbers of sextortion reports to dramatically increase.
The NCA's advice to any potential targets is: “Do not panic, do not pay, do not communicate and preserve evidence.”