By Anil Rachamalla
Social media creates an opportunity for young women and men living in socially conservative societies to be able to communicate, meet and engage in forbidden intimacies and forbidden behaviour. Men are being contacted on Instagram and WhatsApp by women having attractive profile pictures. They lure the unsuspecting men with sweet talk and gradually, persuade them to do a nude video call. When the victim calls, they record the entire episode and start blackmailing him for money, threatening to share the video clips with relatives and friends on social media.
Taking advantage of people’s fear of having intimate moments exposed, scammers are extorting money by threatening them. Sextortion scams are dangerous and may lead to suicides with the fear of social defamation.
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Sextortion happens via (1) social media (social networking, online video games, and video chat platforms). (2) Dating Apps (including OkCupid, Tinder, TanTan, and Locanto). (3) Bitcoin and email phishing (sending out random emails claiming to have sex recordings).
How to identify a sextortion scam:
- Scammers are usually quite adept at copying stuff (fancy profiles) from other websites and using them
- There are discrepancies between their dating and other public profiles
- Declaring love at first sight
- Interested in engaging in intimate activities online
- Sending short links to their profiles
- Create fake stories like family members being unwell or processing visas or sending gifts
- Someone unknown is trying to flirt or come nude in a live session
Few common elements of scams:
- They threaten victims, create panic and fear
- Set a time limit for money transfers (typically between 12 and 24 hours)
- The scammer keeps a copy of sexual acts and begins sending clips at the start of each conversation
- Scammers send instructions on how to purchase bitcoins and transfer them
- Scammers explain in detail how they blackmail you (usually on social media)
- Scammers provide technical explanations, that they have control of your explicit data
- Scammers create a sense of helplessness in their victims
- Victims try to make it go away due to social defamation and emotional stress
What to do:
- Do not panic. The first step is to recognise that you are the victim and that you require support
- Past experience shows that even if victims pay, there is no guarantee that the fraudsters will stop
‘* By replying to extortion threats, you indicate to criminals that you may be persuaded to pay
- Document all communication with the sextortionist
- Protect all social media profiles, make them private, enable two-factor authentication
- Report inappropriate content to the social media platform
- Contact www.cybercrime.gov.in or call 155260 to report
- If under 18, consider speaking to a trusted adult and get additional support
Age is not criteria. There are victims from all age groups. Never indulge in online chatting, dating or getting emotionally involved with strangers without verifying who they are. Never share intimate pictures and videos on any online platform.
Beware that there are so many pitfalls in online romance. There could be fake profile pictures, fake profiles, unclear motives, unbalanced emotional people, and unclear past behaviour, and mostly those are the people who are on the lookout for just a sexual relationship or planning to extort money.
Stay tuned to Cyber Talk for more on internet ethics and digital wellness brought to you by Anil Rachamalla of the End Now Foundation (www.endnowfoundation.org)