At least 34 Victorian women have been targeted by predators who access intimate images in their social media accounts and attempt to blackmail them.
The online sextortion scam has prompted police to warn platform users to be careful if they receive requests to authenticate a friend’s account.
The scam works like this: the victim is contacted by a friend saying their account is locked and they’ve been nominated to receive a message with a verification code to unlock it.
But the friend’s account was compromised and the code unlocks the victim’s account.
“Once this happens, the offender searches the victim’s account for any compromising or intimate images or material they can use to blackmail the victim,” Victoria Police said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This blackmail may include requests to move to other online platforms or provide further intimate images.”
Police have identified at least 34 victims linked to a series of such scams dating back to July 2019.
They are warning social media users that if they get a message like that to call their friend to verify the request.
“Do not assist any user to gain access to an account, even if it appears to be a known friend,” police said.
“Account recovery can only be done by the account user directly with the platform administrator.”
Social media users are also being warned not to upload, save or forward intimate pictures or sensitive information.
Cybercrime Squad Detective Inspector Boris Buick is urging anyone who has been a victim of a sextortion scam to contact police.
“We believe that these matters are under reported and that can be for a range of reasons, including fear or embarrassment, and sometimes feeling unsure if an offence has occurred or if they will be believed,” he said.
“I want to assure the community that Victoria Police is committed to investigating these matters and holding offenders to account.”