“Sextortion” scammers are increasingly targeting people on social media and dating websites, with models being used to dupe victims into sending explicit photos and videos that are then used as blackmail.
Consumer protection authorities have warned “sextortion” scammers are increasingly targeting people on social media and dating websites, with models being used to dupe victims into sending explicit photos and videos that are then used as blackmail.
In one recent case, a 36-year-old West Australian man sent a video of himself in a “compromising” position to a woman he thought he knew and recently befriended on Facebook.
But that woman turned out to be a scam artist from overseas, who demanded $5,000.
When he refused to pay, the video was sent to his girlfriend.
In another case, a 21-year-old sent a video to a woman he had just met online and was then told the footage would be sent to his family and ex-girlfriend if he didn’t transfer $1,000.
The scammers then sent a message to his mother and uncle to show they were serious about the threat.
Potentially deadly consequences
WA ScamNet, a division of the Department of Consumer Protection, warned “sextortion” was on the rise.
It has received reports from eight people who have been blackmailed in this way since December last year, but said it believed that was just the tip of the iceberg.
The department’s director of retail and services, Lanie Chopping, said none of the eight victims sent money, but the emotional impact was significant.
“Being a victim of sextortion has a significant personal embarrassment factor,” she said.
“In fact, in tragic circumstances in 2015 a teenager [in Scotland] took his own life after being the victim of sextortion.
“It’s an extremely embarrassing situation for people to be in.”
Models, actors used to lure victims
In some cases, the targets have been enticed into having cyber-sex via Skype, which was recorded.
Ms Chopping said the scammers, who in all eight recent cases were from overseas, went to great lengths to make their profiles appear real.
“They will often use models or actors to sit at the other end of a Skype call,” she said.
“They will send images in the first place and then they’ll ask the victim to send images back, and that’s when they’ve got the collateral to be able to undertake the sextortion.”
WA ScamNet warned people who found themselves in a similar situation to not send money, saying the demands would only escalate.
Instead, they urged victims to report the profile to the sites’ administrators, block the scammer and delete them from their friends list, deactivate their own account for two weeks and contact Consumer Protection.
But to avoid the situation entirely, WA ScamNet said intimate photos and videos should not be shared online with anyone, under any circumstances.